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Page 112 of Garner's fourth edition reads

✳Between each and Other Constructions with Fewer than Two Objects

This phrasing is a peculiar brand of illogic, ✳between each house/speech, instead of, properly, between speeches and between every two houses (native speakers of English don’t consciously think of the phrase as between each house and the next).

However, elsewhere the author adds

"Between calls for a plural or compound object, but it's standard when more than one is meant: Spread butter between each layer."

Are both excerpts not contradictory?

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  • Ir would be helpful to include a title or other identifying information for "Garner" for those who do not know this work. Jun 29, 2021 at 17:29
  • Yes, it's inconsistent. This often happens when would-be pundits make up rules about how language should be instead of listening to how language is. They end up inconsistnt because their so-called rule doesn't actually correspond to the language.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 29, 2021 at 17:30
  • The truisms and attempts to catch out experts is wearying. You say: "Are both excerpts not contradictory?" when you mean: "Don't these excerpts contradict each other?" No, there is no contradiction: Between speeches, coffee was served. Between houses, silence reigned. The spread butter example does not contradict the rule as in speaking a speaker is thinking, as David points out: Between each layer and the next. Spoken English is not written English.
    – Lambie
    Jun 29, 2021 at 19:34
  • @Lambie I don't think this has much to do with sp[oken vs written English. Both ways of using "between" are valid and not uncommon in both spoken and written English. This has to do with a "rule" that was given in over-simplified form, and an exception that was not explicitly stated to be an exception. Jun 29, 2021 at 19:55
  • @DavidSiegel I disagree. A recipe would use: Make sure to butter each layer of the cake, and not: butter between each layer. However, people say that all the time.
    – Lambie
    Jun 29, 2021 at 19:57

1 Answer 1

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The contradiction is in English usage. I would put it something like this:

Normally "between" requires a plural or compound object. However, in the particular case of "between each" a singular object is often used. The phrase "between each house" can be thought of as shorthand for "between each house and the next", but fluent speakers or writers do not often consciously think of it in this way, but simply understand the intended meaning.

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  • Right, spoken English is not written English and the author of that book explained the exception. ERGO: QED.
    – Lambie
    Jun 29, 2021 at 19:44

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