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among, between

Among and Between: What is the Difference?

by | 7 Jan 2019 | English Language

 

If you look up the difference in English between among and between, you will find two kinds of explanations, one just saying that between is used when referring to 2 items and among with 3 and more, and another saying it is more a question of the following words referring to a specific item (for between) or a group (for among).

 

Of course, you may then wonder which one is correct. I’d say a mix of both, but there’s more to it!

 

Use between: before just 2 items (things or people):

  • She usually leaves home between 8 and 9 in the morning. → between because there are only 2 elements: 8am and 9am
  • The child was sitting between his mother and his father. → between because there are only 2 people: the father and the mother.
  • There is a path between the school and our house. → between because there are only 2 things: the school and the house.

Use between:  after the words each and difference

  • Can you tell the difference between Spanish and Italian?
  • There is a space between each word.

Use between: in the phrase between ourselves, between you and me, to mean in confidence, as a secret

  • Between you and me, I don’t think he’ll get the job.

Use betweenbefore 3 or more things or people when you name them separately so each thing or person is distinct from the others:

  • He can’t decide between the grey, the blue and the red sweaters. → Here, each sweater is identified by its specific colour and is distinct from the others, so we use between.

Use among: when there are at least 3 things or people and the words that follow are seen as a group or a mass of things or people that are not separated.

  • He can’t decide among all these sweaters. → Here, the sweaters are seen as a group where none is individually specified, so we use among.

Use among: before a singular, uncountable noun:

  • They were waiting, not knowing what to do among all the furniture. → among because furniture is uncountable (you can’t say 3 or 4 furnitures)

 

Careful! With the verbs divide and share, use between when the verb is followed by singular nouns, and use among or between –i.e. both are possible– when the verb is followed by a plural noun:

  • He divides his time between his work, his family and the local community.
  • They shared the task between / among the members of the group.

 

Reminder:

 

BETWEEN AMONG
 before 2 or more distinct  items  before 3 or more vague, group- items
 with the words each and difference  before a singular, uncountable noun
 after divide or share followed by singular or plural nouns  after the verbs divide or share followed   by a plural noun
 In the phrase: between ourselves, between you and me,   to mean in confidence

 

Here you are! You now know the difference between among and between, congratulations! 🙂

 

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2 Comments

  1. Ellen

    Thanks for such a clear explanation.

    Reply
    • Yolaine Bodin

      Thanks to you for your comment! Glad to hear I managed to make it clear 🙂

      Reply

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