Between vs. Among: Differences between Between and Among

When we come across the prepositions ‘between’ and ‘among,’ we might pause and think about which one correctly fits our sentence. Understanding the correct usage of these words enables us to communicate more accurately and clearly in English. We use ‘between’ when we talk about distinct, one-to-one relationships. It’s the word we choose when we’re referring to two entities or a reciprocal relationship. On the other hand, ‘among’ is used when we’re dealing with indistinct, collective, or non-specific relationships.

Between vs. Among: the Key Difference

BETWEEN vs. AMONGPin

Key Takeaways

  • Between is used when referring to distinct, one-to-one relationships, even if there are more than two elements involved.
  • Among works best when referring to collective or nonspecific relationships where elements are part of a group.

Definitions

Between and Among are both prepositions.

 Between: Basic Definition 

Between is used when referring to one-to-one relationships. It is appropriate when we are talking about distinct, clearly separated entities, usually two but it can be more if the relationships or distinctions remain clear. For example:

  • The secret was kept between Alex, Jamie, and Casey.
  • Negotiations are happening between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Among: Basic Definition 

Among is used in the context of indistinct or collective relationships. It’s about being part of a group or surrounded by multiple entities where individual distinctions are less clear. For example:

  • The treasure was hidden among the wrecked ships.
  • She felt at peace among the crowd.

Correct Usage

How to Use Between

Often used for two items

  • They’re building a new road between Manchester and Sheffield.

Although between is often used between 2 things, it is not always. Sometimes between is used with more than 2 things.

  • Our house is between the woods, the river, and the village.

When naming distinct, individual items (can be 2, 3, or more)

  • I’m trying to decide between athletic shoes, boots, and high heels.
  • There has been a marked increase in trade between France, Germany, and Italy.

Use between to connect times or numbers

  • A child develops rapidly between the ages of 13 and 16.
  • Most wines contain between 10% and 15% alcohol.

How to Use Among

Often used for three items or more

  • That old temple is hidden among trees.

When the items are part of a group or are not specifically named (MUST be 3 or more)

  • She began rummaging among the books on her desk.
  • The secret was spread among the crowd.

Note:

We often use between and among when we talk about physical location.

Between is used to describe something at a specific path or point

  • Bolivia lies between Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
  • I walk between the trees and the house.

Among is used to describe something that is in the middle of many things (no defined path)

  • She lives in that house among the trees.
  • Mary is popular among the students.

Usage Tips

When we’re trying to communicate effectively, choosing the correct preposition can be crucial in conveying our message clearly. We often get stuck between “between” and “among,” so let’s explore how to use them accurately.

Choosing the Correct Preposition

  • Between is used when referring to distinct, individual items, even if there are more than two. For example:
    • We’re deciding between chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream.
    • The discussions will remain confidential between you, me, and the counselor.
  • Among is used for indistinct or collective references, generally involving more than two entities. Here are examples to illustrate:
    • She felt at ease among the crowd.
    • The inheritance was divided among the siblings.

Memory Aids for Between and Among

To remember when to use these prepositions, it may help us to use a couple of memory aids:

  • Between has the word “two” in it, which reminds us it involves distinct entities, even if they are more than two.
  • Among carries the idea of being amidst or mingled with, which helps us recall its use with collective or non-distinct items.

Between vs. Among Examples

Examples of “Between” 

  • The negotiations between the two countries resulted in a new trade agreement.
  • She couldn’t decide between the chocolate cake and the lemon tart.
  • The secret path runs between the forest and the river.
  • The competition between the top athletes was fierce.
  • Communication between team members is essential for success.

Examples of “Among” 

  • The wealth is distributed unevenly among the population.
  • There was a sense of excitement among the fans as the concert began.
  • She is popular among her peers for her kindness and wit.
  • The discussion among the committee members lasted for hours.
  • He walked among the trees, enjoying the peace of the forest.

Practical Exercises 

Fill-in-the-Blank 

  1. The secret was shared only _____ the three sisters. (between/among)
  2. Negotiations _____ the two companies have stalled. (between/among)
  3. The inheritance was divided equally _____ the four siblings. (between/among)
  4. The teacher had to mediate a dispute _____ several students. (between/among)
  5. There’s a clear distinction _____ right and wrong in this case. (between/among)
  6. The competition _____ the athletes was fierce. (between/among)
  7. She couldn’t choose _____ the two dresses. (between/among)
  8. The discussion _____ the members of the group was productive. (between/among)
  9. Trust needs to be built _____ team members for success. (between/among)
  10. The treaty was signed _____ the neighboring countries. (between/among)

Answers

  1. The secret was shared only among the three sisters.
  2. Negotiations between the two companies have stalled.
  3. The inheritance was divided equally among the four siblings.
  4. The teacher had to mediate a dispute among several students.
  5. There’s a clear distinction between right and wrong in this case.
  6. The competition among the athletes was fierce.
  7. She couldn’t choose between the two dresses.
  8. The discussion among the members of the group was productive.
  9. Trust needs to be built among team members for success.
  10. The treaty was signed between the neighboring countries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between “between” and “among”?

  • “Between” is used when referring to one-to-one relationships or when distinguishing separate things.
  • “Among” denotes inclusivity within a group, mass, or collective that is not separated.

Can “between” be used for more than two items?
Yes, “between” can be used for more than two items, especially when discussing specific distinct entities or relationships. For example, an agreement between several distinct parties.

Is “among” ever correct when talking about two items?
Typically, “among” is not used for two items since it suggests “surrounded by” or being part of a collective, which requires more than two.

Can you give an example using “between” and “among”?

  • Between: The secret is shared between Sarah, Peter, and Mike.
  • Among: The secret is shared among the members of the club.

Could you list common mistakes when using “between” and “among”? Here’s a brief list:

  • Using “among” for distinct, specified entities.
  • Using “between” when referring to an indistinct or generalized group.
  • Assuming “between” is only for two items.

When you’re unsure, remember that “between” often involves distinct, individual items or one-to-one relationships, even in a group, while “among” is used for more general, collective contexts.