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I want to make sure that I'm using amid and among properly. As I understand it, amid is for uncountable nouns, and among is for countable nouns.

My sentence was originally:

The three enjoyed their drinks for a moment amid the sounds of the crowd.

I believe sounds in this context is countable. Is this correct?

If so, I think there are two ways to fix my error.

1) Change the sentence to use an uncountable noun: sound.

The three enjoyed their drinks for a moment amid the sound of the crowd.

2) Change the preposition to be the proper one for a countable noun: among.

The three enjoyed their drinks for a moment among the sounds of the crowd.

Are these last two variations correct in their preposition/noun agreement?

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    Stylistically, amid[st] is probably preferable to among[st] in your context (but it might be the opposite in, say, They got out of the car and walked among the crowd). But this is writing advice, not a matter of "correct grammar". Dec 23, 2017 at 19:53
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    amid is a preposition, not among here. amid the sound or sounds of the crowd. among things or people, amid sounds.
    – Lambie
    Dec 23, 2017 at 19:57
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    It's probably better not to regard 'amid the sounds of the crowd' as a count usage, as inclusion of a numeral would be unnatural. But FF's / Lambie's advice on choice of preposition here is sound: among discrete and sizeable entities; amidst anything else. Dec 23, 2017 at 20:13
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    @Edwin: They sheltered behind a car amid the gunfire seems natural enough. And They sheltered behind a car amid [the] three gunshots does sound more than a bit weird. But They sheltered behind a car amid dozens of explosions doesn't necessarily seem odd to me. Dec 23, 2017 at 20:19
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    @FF ... amid/st anything else, though there needs to be a situation where a homogeneity metaphor makes sense. Dec 23, 2017 at 20:34

2 Answers 2

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I believe sounds in this context is countable. Is this correct?

No. We're not talking about five sounds, as opposed to three sounds.

You can think of amid like "in the middle of."

Note, your alternate sentence is kosher:

... amid the sound of the crowd.

At a very fine level of comparison, "amid the sound" gives the impression the crowd spoke as one -- probably not what you want.

Your other idea

The three enjoyed their drinks for a moment among the sounds of the crowd.

doesn't work (but it's not an embarrassing mistake -- one would have to listening carefully to pick up on this).

Here's a sentence that successfully uses "among the sounds":

Among the more unusual sounds we heard while the orchestra was tuning up: a hunting horn, a harp, a celeste, and a slide whistle.

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  • Thank you for the additional detail and dissection of the phrases. However, I'm not sure what wording you, ultimately, recommend for the phrase. You mention that "amid the sound of the crowd" is kosher, but hint at it giving an incorrect impression. Do you have a way to word the phrase such that it does not give that impression? Thanks!
    – Kyle Tolle
    Dec 26, 2017 at 20:21
  • @KyleTolle - Fumblefingers gave you a suggestion. If you are connected with a university, there should be a Writing Center you could contact. Dec 27, 2017 at 15:29
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Garner’s Modern English Usage characterizes “amid” as implying position and “among” as implying a mingling. “Amid” and its variant “amidst” are regarded as somewhat quaint, according to that source. Garner prefers the more wordy “in the midst of”, citing its more common usage and its pleasant cadence.

Perhaps, “The three enjoyed their drinks in the midst of the noisy crowd”, or if “midst” doesn’t fit your tone, consider: “...drinks, surrounded by the sounds of the crowd.”

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  • I appreciate the alternate uses you suggest. It can be easy to fixate on one, problematic phrase, when another would render the problem obsolete.
    – Kyle Tolle
    Dec 26, 2017 at 21:00

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