You, boys, must settle it __ yourselves

Problem: Fill in the blank with an appropriate preposition.

Attempt: I am thinking of "by". My friend is thinking of "amongst". I suggest "by" because that means that those boys have to settle their dispute on their own. He suggested "amongst" because they are a group so they can divide or share the settling amongst themselves.

Question: Which answer is correct and why? Thanks!

  • 2
    If there are two boys, then use between. If there are three or more, use among or amongst. – J.R. Jan 13 '16 at 10:16
  • I was thinking on settle it on, which it's just agree. – Alejandro Jan 13 '16 at 12:24

All of the following are correct and would all communicate essentially the same meaning: The boys need to settle it and will not receive assistance in doing so. (Alternatively, the speaker might intend to communicate If it's going to be settled at all, you'll need to do it yourselves.)

The only exception is that among or amongst would generally not be chosen if only two boys are being addressed.

Not all good or educated writers and language experts agree with the commonly-held idea that between cannot properly be used to indicate relationship between(!) more than two people. See below.

Amongst is more frequently used in British English than in American English, in which among is preferred between the two.

  • You, boys, must settle it between yourselves.

  • You, boys, must settle it among yourselves.

  • You, boys, must settle it amongst yourselves.

  • You, boys, must settle it for yourselves.

  • You, boys, must settle it by yourselves.

  • You, boys, must settle it yourselves. (No preposition is needed.)

Regarding between, among, and amongst, see the usage note at between in The American Heritage Dictionary.

Also see https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/37636/between-vs-among. I particularly recommend @tchrist's thorough treatment of this question in his answer there.

The six options were identified by @snailboat in an ELL chatroom. But all elaboration on them is mine. Thanks, snailboat!

  • 'Settle it for yourselves' is what popped into my mind upon seeing the sentence. – GoDucks Jan 14 '16 at 6:00

I think 'among' is the better option. As he said, 'you' isn't referred to you alone, per se. Here, 'you' means 'the boys'. So, it is a group. And in such cases, 'among' or 'amongst' is the best option. The use of 'by' wouldn't be wrong if 'yourselves' were 'yourself'. But it's not. Among the two, I would go with 'among'.

You, boys, must settle it amongst/ among yourselves.


You must settle it by yourself.

Note: Consider this sentence :

"Despite of what they were told, they decided to go there by themselves."

In many cases, "by" can be used instead of "among". But in cases which involves a solution for something between the individuals, 'among' or 'amongst' is used -
"They sorted their differences among themselves.".

  • 2
    I don't think by yourselves is necessarily wrong; it can mean "without any outside help." Consider: "Dad, can you help us put together this jigsaw puzzle?" "No, I can't right now – you'll have to put it together by yourselves." – J.R. Jan 13 '16 at 10:18
  • 1
    Not if it's a sister and two brothers working collaboratively on the puzzle. Had my original question been: "Consider: "Dad, can you help me put together this jigsaw puzzle?" then "...by yourself" would be appropriate. – J.R. Jan 13 '16 at 10:25
  • 1
    Using the preposition by has nothing to do with its object being singular or plural. Your last sentence is not clear. Does it mean they decided to go there without anyone accompanying them or they decided to go there without anyone influencing their decision? You need to clarify this point. Please edit your post and I will reverse my downvote. – user24743 Jan 13 '16 at 12:09

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