Among vs. Between – At first glance, we may find among and between are quite similar, but these two words actually have different uses. We may have known the general rule that between is used to connect two related objects, while among connects more than three related objects.
The concept isn’t wrong, however, not completely accurate. We can say:
- What is the difference between say, speak, and tell?
But not, What is the difference among say, speak, and tell?
It’s clearly shown that there are three items in the sentence, then why don’t we use among instead of between? Well, we’re going to answer this question in the following discussion.
Among vs. Between Grammar Rules
As we mentioned above, among vs. between isn’t only about the number of related items, but how they associate to each other.
1. We can use between to refer to two or more distinct, individual items.
2. We can use among to talk about items (must be three or more) which aren’t distinctly separated because they’re part of a group or mass of objects.
To make it clear, let’s see the following examples:
- The cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in raising maritime safety is going well. (correct)
The cooperation among the countries of Southeast Asia in raising maritime safety is going well. (correct)
Although both sentences aren’t equivalent as there are more countries in Southeast Asia than just Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, but they clearly illustrate the rule. In the first sentence, we may use between to refer three separately items, while among in the second sentence is used to talk about the part of particular group.
Let’s make it make it easier.
- I can’t decide between the red handbag, the pink handbag, and the white handbag. (correct)
I can’t decide among these handbags. (correct)
This time both sentences are equivalent. In the first sentence we explicitly mention each of the three items (the red handbag, the blue handbag, and the white handbag), so in this case we should use between. In the second sentence, we treat the three items as part of a group (these handbags), that’s why we should use among instead of between.
Don’t use between with or or to
When you use between to relate two words, make sure to connect them with and, rather than or or to.
- You can choose between pancake or avocado toast for breakfast. (incorrect)
You can choose between pancake and avocado toast for breakfast. (correct) The women’s shoe prices here range between $35 to $125. (incorrect)
The women’s shoe prices here range between $35 and $125. (correct)
Useful tips in using between
Use between instead of among to connect times, amounts, or numbers.
- Our next project will cost among six and seven million dollars. (incorrect)
Our next project will cost between six and seven million dollars. (correct) I lived in London among 2006 and 2012. (incorrect)
I lived in London between 2006 and 2012. (correct) I go jogging every morning among 4:30 am and 6:30 am. (incorrect)
I go jogging every morning between 4:30 am and 6:30 am. (correct) Most of the plane crash victims were young women among the ages of 18 and 23. (incorrect)
Most of the plane crash victims were young women between the ages of 18 and 23. (correct)
Regularly, between comes after the following nouns: connection, difference, distinction, link, relationship.
- There’s a connection between polluted rivers and bad habits. (correct)
What is the difference between man and woman shoes? (correct)
The main distinction between formal and informal language are quite clear. (correct)
I believe that there’s a strong link between unemployment and crime rate. (correct)
The relationship between the foreign firm and local community has significantly improved. (correct)
Between also regularly comes after these following verbs: choose, differentiate, distinguish, and divide.
- For the dessert we could choose between ice cream and apple tart. (correct)
It’s important to differentiate between fact and opinion. (correct)
She couldn’t distinguish between right and wrong. (correct)
The money will be divided equally between you and me. (correct)
We hope the explanation about among vs. between above could give you a better and clear understanding of these both words. If you looking for more English lessons about English grammar rules, punctuation rules, vocabulary, or even text genres, you can click on the related table given or just visit ’s index page.
“Among, Between.” Microsoft Student 2009. DVD. Redmond, WA, USA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
In text: (“Among, Between”)