Vocabulary: ‘Among’ or ‘between’

Vocabulary: ‘among’ or ‘between’
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-A2)

Many learners wonder how to use these words correctly. Some people give the simple rule that you should use ‘between’ with two things/people and ‘among’ when you have more than two. However, in practice, it is a little different.

A key is to focus on the kind of relationship the things/people have. ‘Among’ is usually used when the relationship is very general and non-specific. Here are some examples:

The dog always like to be among the children.
His bag is somewhere among all the jackets lying on the bed. (At a party)
Relax, you are among friends.
We have a spy among us.

However, in the following it normal to use ‘between’ because the relationship is reciprocal:

There’s a long-standing agreement between all the local councils to help in an emergency.
Between us, the plan is a mess. (Small group of specially selected people).

‘Between’ is also used when you give a list of singular nouns/pronouns or you are thinking of one item at a time:

Between doing her homework, playing the piano and going swimming, she has little time for her friends.
Between each round of tennis, the champion always has an ice bath.

Some expressions:

Reading between the lines, she doesn’t like you very much.
Between me, you and the lamppost, I’m planning to resign next month. (It is a secret)