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Unraveling the “Among” Mishap: A Common English Pitfall

We’ve all been there – staring at a sentence, wondering if we should say “among friends” or “between friends”. These two little words, “among” and “between”, may seem harmless, but they’re notorious culprits for causing confusion and errors in English usage. Let’s unravel this common mistake and set the record straight for clear and confident communication.

The Root of the Problem

The biggest misconception is that “between” is only for two things, while “among” is for three or more. While that’s sometimes true, it’s not the whole story. Here’s how to decide which one works:

  • Between: Individual Connections Think of “between” as highlighting separate, one-on-one relationships or comparisons.
    • “I couldn’t decide between pizza and pasta for dinner.”
    • “The negotiations were strictly between the company and the union.”
  • Among: Group Dynamics Use “among” when referring to something being located within a collective, or when emphasizing a sense of belonging in a group.
    • “There was a feeling of camaraderie among the team members.”
    • “Ancient artifacts were found hidden among the ruins.”

Grey Areas (But With Solutions)

Life isn’t always black and white, and language follows suit! Sometimes, either word might technically fit, depending on your emphasis. See this example:

  • “The debate raged between the candidates.” (Focus on separate clashes)
  • “The debate raged among the candidates.” (Focus on the overall debate environment)

How to Fix It

The best way to avoid the “among” pitfall is to think about what you’re trying to convey:

  • Specific, individual relationships? Use “between”.
  • Location within a group, or overall sense of inclusion? “Among” is your go-to.

Practice Makes Perfect

Let’s solidify this concept with some real-life examples:

  • Incorrect: “The money was divided among the five siblings.”
  • Correct: “The money was divided between the five siblings.” (We’re talking about separate shares)
  • Incorrect: “There’s a strong rivalry between the forest, the lake, and the mountains.”
  • Correct: “There’s a strong rivalry among the forest, the lake, and the mountains.” (They’re part of a larger landscape)

Mastering “Among” and “Between”

By understanding the subtle differences between these two words, and applying a little mindfulness, you can banish this common error. Now you’re well on your way to sharper, more precise English – one preposition at a time!


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<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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