Between vs. Among – What is the Difference?

It is simple─ there are two prepositions used to separate two or more things or people in a sentence. What may not be simple is using the prepositions correctly without any confusion. Yes, we are referring to “between” and “among.”

The traditional grammar rule states that between is used when referring to two objects or people, and among is used when referring to three or more things or people. For instance,

  • The parents divided the tasks between Tony and Sam.
  • The teacher distributed books among David, George, and Hillary.

Doesn’t it look easy? In most cases, the good news is that we follow the traditional grammar rules while using between and among in a sentence. However, these prepositions can be used differently too, depending on the context. Let’s tell you how.

#1 You can use between when there are three or more objects or people, as long as they are distinctive from each other. For instance,

  • He had to choose between playing, cycling, swimming, and reading. 
  • The trade happened between the USA, Canada, and Mexico. 

#2 It is correct to use among when referring to people or things as part of a group or a spatial relationship. For instance,

  • The politicians started arguing among themselves.
  • She felt awkward among her new neighbours. 

#3 You may come across among spelled as amongst sometimes, but they mean the same.  .

So, now that you know when to use between and among, ensure you use the correct preposition, particularly while writing for the academic and technical domains. It is often easy to mess up the use of prepositions in scholarly writing, which negatively affects language quality—one of the main reasons why a research paper gets rejected.

The example given below shows how using the wrong preposition can disrupt the intent of the sentence.

Incorrect: We tested the reaction among Tetryl and Enol.

Correct: We tested the reaction between Tetryl and Enol.

Your writing may have all the elements that make it admirable—perfect spellings, correct punctuations, flow—but an incorrectly used preposition can invariably bring down the quality of your writing. But we won’t let that happen! Just like we clarified the usage of between and among in a sentence, we will continue doing so for other prepositions.

Let us know which preposition would you like to know about next.

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