Between vs. Among

Yesterday I had a student who didn’t know the difference between–well–between and among. Then today, a fellow tutor suggested I make a post about it. I’ve pretty much accepted it as a sign, and am now going to teach you the difference between these two words.

Between

Between is only used when you discuss two things. Since I’m an image person, let’s look at a picture!

Between

In this image, that cool cat is between two dogs. Notice that there is a dog on either side of the cat. When you are between something, you’re sandwiched in the middle of two things. Other awesome examples of between include: Oreo cookies (cookie-cream filling-cookie), sandwiches (bread-meat-bread), and North America (Canada-the U.S.-Mexico). So given those examples, let’s see how they would function in sentences.

  • In an Oreo cookie, the cream filling is between two delicious, crunchy, chocolate cookies.
  • When you make a sandwich, the meat goes between the slices of bread. (Notice here I do not use a number, but since I use between, the reader knows it must be two.)
  • The United States of America is between Canada and Mexico.

Ok, rock on. Let’s look at…

Among

Among has the same idea as between, but deals with more than two things. Again–I’m a visual person, so picture time!

Among

That’s seriously one of my favorite internet pictures. For those of you who cannot tell, that’s a dog–a Pomeranian to be exact–on the left, with three cats on the right. Since 3 > 2, we use among. Also, be sure to note that the dog isn’t in the middle with a cat on either side. When you use among, placement can be varied because it has a couple different meanings. For example, it can mean “surrounded by,” or “a part of.” Obviously the dog isn’t surrounded by the cats, but instead is a part of them.  Luckily, that one cat is very smart and knew enough to use among instead of between. Let’s look at some other examples:

  • He was a man among boys.
  • She sat among the trees.
  • He is among the working class.

In case you forget…

Remember this oldies song: “Torn between two lovers.” It tells you that between uses two right there!

Good luck!

Posted in Grammar Quick Fix.