Difference Between Among and Between
Two frequently confused prepositions in the English language are ‘between’ and ‘among’. They seem to be quite similar as they are both used to compare or relate 2 or more things. However, the rules of grammar make it less simple as it sounds. One cannot go about interchanging between and among as part of a sentence. They are dissimilar especially in the number of nouns being compared and the context.
The general rule would be to use ‘between’ when the comparison or relation involves only 2 choices. Conversely, ‘among’ is appropriate when there are 3 or more choices being compared. For example, it is grammatically correct to say ‘The judges had to choose between the red and the green teams’ and ‘The judges carefully deliberated who would be the winner among the 5 competing teams.’
Here’s the trick though. Although ‘between’ is generally used to relate two things, it can also apply when there are more than 2 distinct things involved. By distinct, we mean that which is not part of a collection or group. As for collective choices of 3 or more, ‘among’ should be maintained. For instance, we can say ‘Between ballet, modern jazz, and hip hop, the first one suits you best’ but not ‘Between the 3 kinds of dance, ballet suits you best.’ In the first example, ‘between’ is used because it carries individual and distinct choices. Since the second example involves 3 collective, indistinct choices, it should instead be ‘Among the 3 kinds of dance, ballet suits you best.’ Another correct example would be ‘The differences between Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism are considerable.’ ‘The differences among the 4 oldest religions are significant.’
‘Between’ can also be used to bridge one-to-one relationships. These can be between two individual items or multiple groups of people. For example, ‘The fight between best friends, Stan and Jules went on for weeks.’ ‘The interactions between the freshmen, the sophomores, and the seniors are now much more civil than before.’ ‘This matter should remain between the two of us.’
‘Among’ can also point to a group as a whole. For instance, ‘Candies were given out among the children.’ ‘Delighted cheers swelled up from among the audience.’ Furthermore, it can as well indicate a notable part of a group. Say, ‘Jane was a jewel among stones.’ ‘The prince chose a life among the poor.’
The appropriate use of ‘between’ and ‘among’ can also imply what kind of location or scenario is being talked about. Case in point, tell the difference between ‘walking between the trees’ and ‘walking among the trees’. The former could denote a pathway literally in between 2 parallel streaks of trees, while the latter gives the reader the notion that it is within a forest. Another set of examples would be ‘clash between the crowds’ and ‘clash among the crowds’. The first phrase clearly indicates a clash between 2 or more groups of people, i.e. Crowd A fighting Crowd B. As for the second, it could be multiple instances of conflicts happening among members of a single crowd.
- ‘Among’ and ‘between’ are prepositions in the English language used to compare or relate 2 or more things.
- Generally, ‘between’ applies to 2 choices, while ‘among’ is the appropriate term to connect 3 or more choices.
- ‘Between’ can also be used to compare or relate more than 2 things, on the premise that they are individually distinct.
- ‘Among’ pertains to a group as a whole or a notable part of a group.
- The proper use of ‘between’ and ‘among’ can draw a more lucid description of a scenario or location.
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