Between, among, and amongst usage rules

 In Learn English

How do you use between, among, and amongst correctly in English sentences? Let’s start with the definitions.

There are lots of ways ‘between’ is used in the English language however when talking about where you’d confuse the choice of between, among, and amongst in your sentence, the following definitions are most relevant.

What’s the Difference Between Between, Among, and Amongst?

between, among, and amongstBetween—with reference to a choice or differentiation involving 2 or more things being considered together
Oxford Dictionary

Among—in the midst of, surrounded by, in the company or association of

Amongst—in the midst of, surrounded by, in the company or association of

WHAT?!  Yeah, ‘among’ and ‘amongst’ mean the same thing.  ‘Amongst’ is simply a variation of the word ‘among’—feel free amongst yourselves to use it whenever the mood strikes!

So…Between, Among, and Amongst

Here’s where your real choice lies.  Should you use ‘between’ or ‘among’.

‘Between’ is used when there’s a one-to-one relationship, and the things you’re talking about are specific, distinct, individual.  It can be any number of items you’re choosing—even if the number is unspecified.

Harvard, Yale, Stanford         The colleges he’s choosing between are Harvard, Yale, and Stanford!

London, Paris, Rome               It’s between London, Paris, and Rome for 2018 City of the Year.

You, me                                       Let’s keep this between you and me, ok?

Mystery, romance                   I can’t choose between this mystery and this romance.

‘Among’ is used when the things you’re talking about are NOT specific or distinct and are things that can be viewed as a group.  Their relationship is non-specific.

The living, the dead                We didn’t know if he was among the living or the dead.

The crowd                                 I thought I saw their faces among the crowd.

Artists, writers, musicians   It was heaven, I lived among artists, writers, and musicians.

Race participants                   The swag bags will be divided among the race participants.

When you’re talking about whether to use ‘between’ or ‘among’ in a sentence involving special relationships, or location…

‘Between’ is used when the meaning is, ‘in the middle’ or when there’s something/someone on either end or side, AND when you are connecting 2 places.

I found $5.25 in change between the sofa cushions.

The train runs between New York City and Washington D.C.

‘Among’ is used when the meaning of the location is amidst, or surrounded by.

Waldo is somewhere among all those Waldo look-alikes.

There are orchids hidden among the ferns.

When to use ‘between’ or ‘among’ is actually clear when you ask yourself the question, “are the things I’m talking about distinct”?  Even in reference to ‘between’ or ‘among’ as far as location goes, your use of ‘between’ is more specific and distinct, you could actually lay your hands on something that someone told you was “between 2 specific items”, you’d be walking all over the forest to find the orchids that are “hidden among the ferns”.

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