March 3, 2010

Language Tips: proved or proven & among or amongst

Posted in among/amongst, proved and proven at 10:13 am by dlseltzer


Well, not really a sighting, but the other morning I heard a local weatherman say this:

We were lambasted with 42 inches of snow this month.

We really can’t be lambasted by snow. Lambast means to criticize severely or to censure or to beat or whip; however, it refers to a person doing something to another person. We really can’t be lambasted by snow. The weatherman would have been better off saying,

We were deluged with 42 inches of snow this month


We were inundated with 42 inches of snow this month.

Okay, so on to the tips.

Well, this is a first. I am addressing both of today’s tips for the third time. I’ve never rehashed tips three times before, but it’s called for now. The first tip is in response to a request, and the second I saw in an email this week and wanted to stop it before it got away.

Tip 1: Proved or proven

A reader writes:

Are you still taking these questions?

I wonder if you might comment on “proved” vs. “proven”?

“It has been proved definitively.” Proven?

“It has proven difficult.” Proved?

First, let’s get this out of the way: the adjective is proven.

The proven method was to add yeast to warm water, and let the yeast activate.

When using the past participle of prove, both proved and proven are correct; however (and this is a big HOWEVER), proved is the preferred form.

After years of experimentation, the theory was proved false.

After years of missteps, he has proved that the way to a women’s heart involves more than flowers.

So while technically, both are correct, this is my recommendation:

Use proven as the adjective and proved as the past participle. Follow this recommendation, and you can’t go wrong.

Tip 2: Among or amongst

I received the following sentence in an email message:

I use web-based servers to share files amongst researchers.

I looked to see what I wrote about amongst last time, and it was this: CUT IT OUT!

Well, that was spot on, so I will reiterate: CUT IT OUT!

Really, amongst and its brethren (e.g., whilst, amidst) are archaic and sound pretentious. While relatively common in the UK, they are not-should not-be used here. So,


[NOTE: My thinking on this has evolved over time. To see my earlier views on this, check out: <>.]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: