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03/05/01: "Between" and "Among"

Which sentences correctly use "between" or "among"?

1. I am having trouble choosing from among the three candidates we interviewed for the manager's position.
2. The contract dispute was to be settled between the subcontractor, the electrician, the engineer, and the project director.
3. We divided the cost of the dinner between Francis, Martha, Sally, and me.
4. My husband and I discussed the paintings among ourselves until others arrived at the exhibit.

Only the first sentence is correct.

Although American dictionaries make finer points of distinction between these two words (go to m-w.com, for example, and look up "between"), the basic rule is relatively simple: Use "between" when you are referring to two people, items, or ideas; use "among" when referring to three or more.

Sentences 1, 2, and 3, therefore, should use "among" because each sentence refers to three or more people. Sentence 4 should have said "between ourselves" since the conversation was between only two people: the speaker and her husband.

TEST YOURSELF:

1. The child anxiously tried to decide between all the different flavors of ice cream available to her.
2. Although the process is time consuming, the coach insists on a conference between the captain and each player the day before every game.
3. I have never fully understood the differences between the words "compose," "comprise," and "consist."

Answers:

1. to decide AMONG all the different flavors
2. CORRECT [Each conference is between two people: the captain and one player.]
3. AMONG the [three] words

Copyright 2001 Get It Write

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