Posted by: Jack Henry | January 4, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Between or Among?

I’m afraid there’s not a simple way to explain whether to use between or among when you are comparing things, but I’ll give it a try. The good news is that, for most of you, this is something you know inherently, and you don’t really need an explanation. But for English language learners, this can be a bugaboo.

The rule you may have heard is that you should use between when you are talking about two things, and you should use among when you are talking about three or more things. And that rule will serve you well—much of the time.

But consider this sentence: “I am choosing ________ my mom, my dad, and my best friend to share my lottery winnings with.” You’ve got three things there, but intuitively you probably know that you should use between. Why is that?

Well, it is true that we always use between when we are talking about only two things, but we also use between when we are talking about three or more things individually. Because I listed my mom, my dad, and my best friend separately, I need to use between.

If I had said, “The office workers decided to divide their lottery winnings evenly ________ themselves,” it would feel natural, and it would be correct, to use among. In that case, I am not listing the office workers individually. They are a whole group of lucky people who get to share the winnings.

(As a side note, the words among and amongst mean the same thing. Among is most commonly used in the United States while amongst is most commonly used in the United Kingdom.)

And now you have an explanation for a rule that you didn’t even know you needed an explanation for. You’re welcome!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

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