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Just wondering about this sentence I came across:

It is difficult to distinguish between a misrepresentation or an exaggeration.

I feel 'and' should be used in place of 'or'. Can someone confirm this and provide an explanation?

4 Answers

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This is a peculiarity of the predicate distinguish between. It takes two objects in a conjoined phrase, but either conjunction (and, or) can be used. And is licensed by the construction between X and Y, and or is licensed by the meaning, which involves a binary choice between two alternatives, hence or. Individual predicates can have little affordances like this.

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Both forms occur (and they definitely mean exactly the same), but and is more common than or in the cited context...

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Or seems illogical to me. You distinguish between two things - A and B.

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One is to understand that "among" is entirely equivalent to "between", except that usage prefers "between" when there are only two elements; it is also the case that "among" and "between" are used together, and that then "among" has the function to make precise a set within which the comparisons are made between two types.


Distinguish among a scientific hypothesis, a scientific theory, and a scientific law (law of nature).
The most typical is to distinguish among organizations according to characteristics that correspond to their strategies,
If there are a lot of dogs spread out evenly in a halfcircle in front of us, how many could we distinguish among?
To further distinguish, among the three: inspiration, illumination and revelation.
our experience suggests that it will be important to distinguish among three DUR functions
We distinguish among those living alone between husband - wife ( HWPNF ) and lone - parent ( LPPNF ) units . We distinguish among families in shared accommodation, between primary nuclear families ( PNFP ) and others
they distinguish among the various “ logical elements ” on the basis of characteristics of their roles in inference that are associated

"Between" is used also just as "among", that is, it is used for sets in which more than two elements have to be distinguished from one another.


These age differences are not contrary to Turiel's claim that all children across different ages can distinguish between different social domains. ("Among" could be used just as well as "between".)

elements are distinctive in that they incorporate sound features that enable us to distinguish between spoken words. For example, the word bad has three phonemes. If we change the first, we can distinguish between bad and sad.

can we increase our ability to know everything, and to distinguish between the truth, the good and the

This tends to show a fairly close equivalence between "between" and "among", as the Collins dictionary mentions (foll by between or among).

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