Between vs. Among
- Use between when you want to refer to two or more entities that are separate and distinct. Use among when referring to things that aren’t distinct or individual, but instead collective.
- ○ The students chose between Howard, Spelman, and Morehouse.
- ○ The students chose among the top HBCUs.
Between and among are prepositions. There’s a widely used grammar rule that guides writers to use between when referring to two people or things (a conversation between Jack and Sally), and among when there are more than two (a conversation among a group of friends).
Although this guideline can sometimes be helpful, it’s not always so clear-cut. We’ll explain why below.
When To Use “Between”
When discussing two or more elements that are separate and individual (and often equal), use between.
The discussion was between Erick, Jack, and me.
The agreement between Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Monroe County was holding strong even after five years.
You have to decide between pizza or pasta.
As illustrated by the examples above, between can be used whether you’re referring to two nouns or more, as long as there is a clear distinction between them.
When To Use “Among”
However, when you’re referring to something collectively or imprecisely, use among.
It’s important to create a treaty among the developed nations.
Among other things, we felt confused.
Excitement spread among the fans.
Between and among are also used differently when it comes to location and spatial relationships. Between is used when referencing a point between two places, or when something is in the middle of something.
There’s a garden between the store and my apartment building.
Among implies that something is surrounded by something else.
I found myself lying among the flowers.
Remember the Difference Between “Among” and “Between”
If you were to change the example above to read I found myself lying between the flowers, it would imply that you are laying down between flowers, as opposed to being surrounded by them.
Additionally, among (and its variation amongst) is often used to portray that someone or something is in or in the midst of a group.
Legend has it there was a boy who lived among the wolves.
We got lost among a crowd of people.
The most important distinction to remember when using between or among is: to use between when referring to things that are separate and individual, and among when referring to things collectively or imprecisely.
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