The Oxbridge Editing Blog 11th July 2024

Among vs. Between: What’s the Difference?

11th July 2024
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Understanding the nuances of English prepositions can be challenging, especially when it comes to words like “among” and “between.” Both words are used to describe relationships or positions, but their uses are distinct and context-specific. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between “among” and “between,” delve into their meanings, provide examples, and offer guidance on when to use between vs among correctly.

Among Meaning

The word “among” is used to indicate that someone or something is in the midst of others. It implies a relationship or position within a group of three or more entities. “Among” suggests being surrounded by or included in a larger set.

Examples of “Among” in Use

  • “She felt comfortable among her friends.”
  • “The cottage was hidden among the trees.”
  • “There was a lot of debate among the committee members.”

In each of these examples, “among” is used to convey inclusion within a larger group or context.

Between Meaning

The word “between” is typically used to indicate a relationship involving two distinct entities. It signifies a direct relationship or position connecting one entity to another. However, “between” can also be used when referring to more than two entities if each entity is considered individually and distinctly.

Examples of “Between” in Use

  • “The train travels between London and Manchester.”
  • “She stood between her two best friends.”
  • “You must choose between the three options presented.”

In these examples, “between” establishes a clear, direct relationship or position involving distinct entities.

Among vs. Between: Key Differences

The primary difference between “among” and “between” lies in the number of entities involved and how those entities are perceived in context.

When to Use “Between”

Use “between” when:

  1. Two Entities: You are referring to a relationship involving exactly two entities.
    • Example: “The negotiation was between the two companies.”
  2. More than Two Entities Considered Individually: When the relationship involves more than two entities but each is considered separately and distinctly.
    • Example: “There was a clear distinction between the four candidates.”

When to Use “Among”

Use “among” when:

  1. Three or More Entities: You are referring to a relationship or position involving three or more entities viewed as a collective group.
    • Example: “There was a sense of camaraderie among the team members.”
  2. Indistinct or Collective Relationships: When the entities are part of a larger set and not individually distinguished.
    • Example: “The disease spread quickly among the population.”

Among vs. Between Examples in Context

Understanding the use of “among” vs. “between” becomes clearer with contextual examples. Here are more examples to illustrate their proper usage:

“Among” Examples

  • Community Involvement: “The mayor walked among the citizens, listening to their concerns.”
  • Distribution: “The inheritance was divided among the children.”
  • Discussion: “The new policy caused a stir among the employees.”

“Between” Examples

  • Negotiation: “The peace treaty was signed between the two nations.”
  • Placement: “The lamp is placed between the sofa and the armchair.”
  • Choice: “He had to decide between studying law and pursuing a career in medicine.”

Complex Cases

Occasionally, the distinction between “among” and “between” can be subtle, especially in complex sentences. For instance:

  • “Among” for a Collective Group: “The agreement was reached among all participating countries.”
    • Here, “among” suggests that the agreement involved all countries as a group.
  • “Between” for Individual Consideration: “The agreement was reached between the five largest economies.”
    • Here, “between” implies that each of the five economies was considered individually.

Historical Usage of “Among” and “Between”

The historical usage of “among” and “between” can also provide insight into their distinct meanings and applications. Historically, “between” was used for two entities, while “among” was used for more than two. However, over time, the rules have evolved, allowing for more flexibility in certain contexts.

Shakespearean Examples

Even in Shakespearean times, the distinction was observed:

  • Between: “But when the fox hath once got in his nose, He’ll soon find means to make the body follow.” (Henry VI, Part III)
  • Among: “For thou hast been as one, In suffering all that suffers nothing; A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards Hast ta’en with equal thanks: and blest are those Whose blood and judgement are so well commingled.” (Hamlet)

In these examples, Shakespeare uses “between” and “among” in ways that align with contemporary understanding, underscoring the timelessness of their proper usage.

Practical Tips for Remembering Among vs. Between

To help you remember when to use “between” vs. “among,” consider the following tips:

  1. Two Entities: Use “between” for two entities.
    • Tip: Think of a “t” for “two” and “between.”
  2. Three or More Entities: Use “among” for three or more entities as a collective group.
    • Tip: “Among” has an “a,” and “a” can stand for “all” in a group.
  3. Individual vs. Collective: Use “between” for individually distinct entities and “among” for collective relationships.
    • Tip: “Between” separates; “among” integrates.


Understanding the difference between “among” and “between” is essential for precise and effective communication. “Among” is used for collective relationships within a group of three or more, while “between” is used for direct relationships involving two or more individually considered entities. By paying attention to the context and the number of entities involved, you can confidently choose the correct preposition and enhance the clarity of your writing.

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