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When to use ‘between’ and ‘among’

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

The words between and among aren’t always interchangeable. Mignon Fogarty shared examples at QuickandDirtyTips.com to illustrate the distinction.

Relationships. Between is used when specific individuals, groups or items are being referred to. For example, “Let’s keep this between you and me” or “Choose between Squiggly and Aardvark.” Some people believe between is used when only two things are being considered, but that isn’t always the case. You would use between for more than two things as long as they are all specific; for example, “The differences between English, Chinese and Arabic are significant.” You use between with specific items, but you use among with nondistinct people, groups or items. For example, “She chose among the Ivy League schools.”

Part of a group. Among is used when describing someone or something as part of a group. For example, “He was glad to find a friend among enemies.”

Location. Between and among can both describe differences in location or direction. For example, if someone says they are “walking between the trees,” it suggests they are staying on a path between trees or literally walking in between two trees. But if someone was to say they were “walking among the trees,” it gives off the idea that the person was wandering around and might not have had a distinct path in mind.

— Adapted from “ ‘Between’ Versus ‘Among,’ ” Mignon Fogarty, QuickandDirtyTips.com.

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