Q: On the morning news the other day, a reporter said a fire was “between 30 to 50 feet” from something, instead of “between 30 and 50″ or “from 30 to 50.” This usage is very common now, but incorrect unless the rules have changed since I was in school.
A: No, English usage hasn’t changed for constructions like these. The word “between” here is accompanied by the conjunction “and” (as in “between X and Y”), while “from” requires the preposition “to” (“from X to Y”).
You’re right, though, that many people confuse these two constructions, so “between” ends up with “to” while “from” ends up with “and.”
We found many examples of the mangled constructions by googling “between 30 to 50” and “from 30 and 50.”
Here’s an example from a Cleveland Clinic tweet: “Why are men between 30 to 50 years of age at the highest rate of suffering from an Achilles tendon rupture?”
And here’s one from the website of the Flagstaff Cruisers Car Club: “Our membership ranges from 30 and 50 proud and dedicated members each year.”
In her grammar and usage book Woe Is I, Pat writes about another problem with “between” and “from”—whether they introduce singular nouns or plural ones. Here’s what she wrote:
“OK, it’s not something that’s been keeping you awake nights. But it comes up all the time. The question: When a noun follows between or from, is it singular or plural? The elevator stalled between the ninth and tenth [floor or floors], stranding the boss from the first to the third [week or weeks] in August. See what I mean? A small problem, perhaps, but a common one.
“The answer: Between is followed by a plural noun, and from is followed by a singular one: The elevator stalled between the ninth and tenth floors, stranding the boss from the first to the third week in August.”
The book also offers these examples of the proper way to use “between” and “from” in the constructions you’ve asked about:
“Veronica said she lost her charm bracelet somewhere between Thirty-third and Thirty-seventh streets. Archie searched every inch of pavement from Thirty-third to Thirty-seventh Street before realizing that she had been in a cab at the time.”
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