among / between

It is often taught that “between” is used for 2 items and “among” for 3 or more – but this is not completely accurate. The more accurate difference is this:

  • Between is used when naming distinct, individual items (can be 2, 3, or more)
  • Among is used when the items are part of a group, or are not specifically named (in this case, they MUST be 3 or more)

    This example will help illustrate the difference:

  • The negotiations between Brazil, Argentina, and Chile are going well.
  • The negotiations among the countries of South America are going well.
  • f course, these sentences are not equivalent (because there are more countries in South America than just Brazil, Argentina, and Chile) but they illustrate the rule -you CAN use between with 3 individual items, and you must use among when talking about a general group (in which no specific countries are named).

    Here’s another example:

  • I’m trying to decide between the green shirt, the blue shirt, and the black shirt.
  • I’m trying to decide among these three shirts.

    These sentences are the same – but in the first sentence, we specifically name each of the three options (the green shirt, the blue shirt, and the black shirt) – so we use the word between. In the second sentence, we treat the items as a group (“these three shirts”) so we use the word among.

    You can find more information and examples here: Grammar Girl: “Between” Versus “Among”

    Which is correct: “Between you and I” or “Between you and me”?

    The correct phrase is “between you and me” – never “between you and I” – this is something that even native speakers confuse!

    This expression is used when you want the other person to keep some information a secret, for example:

  • Between you and me, I think John got fired because he’s completely incompetent.

    This means you don’t want the other person to tell anyone else your opinion about John’s lack of intelligence/ability.