A Word on Grammar: Between versus Among

I sometimes wonder if I get a little too excited about the things I teach. Perphaps , I should  tamp down my enthusiasm when I tell my students that so and so is veeerry eeeeasy! I wonder if they are beginning  to doubt my sincerity but the truth is that English grammar is very easy to teach/grasp, especially when  compared to the Spanish one.

Albert Einstein once  said : “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Anyway, what I really wanted to ask you is : “Do you really know the difference between Among and Between?”

I bet you’ve been taught, as I was, that the difference between Among and Between is that Between is used when we are talking about two items and Among when we are talking about more than two. Hey , listen , don’t panic,  most of the time it works…. but unfortunately not always . The definition is good enough to explain some sentences but  then … how do you explain that this sentence below is also  grammatically correct?

My house is between the forest, the school and the lake

The thing is that between is normally  used when we are talking about two people or two things but it can also be used to refer to three  or more clearly separate people or things.

Among is used when talking about people or things in a group, a crowd or a mass of people which we don’t see separately, ie, we don’t have a definite number in mind though clearly more than two

My house is among mountains

Let’s compare these two sentences. Imagine you are going to a party and you cannot decide what to wear.

1.I am trying to decide between the blue shirt, the white  shirt  or the green shirt

2. I am trying to decide among my shirts

In sentence number 1 I am choosing between a specific number of items

In sentence number 2 I am choosing between an indefinite  number of items

Two more examples might help:

There is a lot of disagreement between Germany, Spain and Finland (three specific countries)

There is a lot of disagreement among some  European countries (you don’t name them specifically)

Hope it helps!

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