Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

Between vs. Among

with 7 comments

I’m not sure if I can explain this well, but I’ll give it a shot. “Between” and “among” are used in specific situations. “Between” is correctly used when there are only two things referenced. For example,

I can’t decide between the flavors.
The above implies there are only two ice cream flavors to choose from.

I can’t decide among the flavors.
This means there are more than two flavors available.

Here’s a way to remember which word to use. Remember the phrase “just between you and me.” There are only two people involved so you use the word “between.” You can also look at the letters “tw” in the middle as a reminder that the word “two” starts with “tw” as well.

If you’re talking about more than two subjects or objects, use the word “among.”

You know the joke, “Just between you and me and the lamppost”? It’s trying to make a humorous point that the secret will remain secret. If you know the difference between “between” and “among,” you can get the linguistic level of the joke, too.

Written by wellaintheworld

2006 Sep 7 at 16:05

Posted in grammar

7 Responses

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  1. …. now please do “fewer” and “less” — on NPR I heard the reporter say “‘less’ people” when she really ought to have said “‘fewer’ people” to be correct! This is a pet peeve of mine about which I hope you will write…..

    Rod Smith

    Rod E. Smith, MSMFT

    2006 Sep 7 at 21:51

    • ARRGH! That bugs me, as well!
      The phrase “amount of people” sets my teeth on edge, too. I always get this mental image of people in a huge Pyrex measuring cup.

      Carla J. Norris

      2012 Mar 16 at 09:20

  2. Done!


    2006 Sep 8 at 10:13

  3. I don’t think this is quite true. This is from the AHD:

    “When more than two entities are involved, however, or when the number of entities is unspecified, the choice of one or the other word depends on the intended sense. Between is used when the entities are considered as distinct individuals; among, when they are considered as a mass or collectivity. Thus in the sentence The bomb landed between the houses, the houses are seen as points that define the boundaries of the area of impact (so that we presume that none of the individual houses was hit). In The bomb landed among the houses, the area of impact is considered to be the general location of the houses, taken together (in which case it is left open whether any houses were hit). By the same token, we may speak of a series of wars between the Greek cities, which suggests that each city was an independent participant in the hostilities, or of a series of wars among the Greek cities, which allows for the possibility that the participants were shifting alliances of cities. For this reason, among is used to indicate inclusion in a group: She is among the best of our young sculptors. There is a spy among you. Use between when the entities are seen as determining the limits or endpoints of a range: They searched the area between the river, the farmhouse, and the woods. The truck driver had obviously been drinking between stops.”


    2007 Feb 7 at 14:20

  4. Please understand proper grammar rules before trying to teach others on the internet, you are completely wrong.


    2010 Apr 27 at 21:13

  5. If only it were this easy. It isn’t.


    2011 Aug 31 at 11:26

  6. An easy way to remember is, “Between the two of us and among the three of us…”

    Shirley Tetreault

    2012 Mar 9 at 13:45

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