Between (or among?) friends …

This week we discuss two prepositions—between and among.  (As you know, a preposition links nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words in a sentence.  My 11th grade English teacher gave me this trick for determining whether a word is a preposition; if it fits into this sentence—“I ran [blank] the houses”—then it is a preposition.)  As a general rule, “between” is used when the sentence involves two things or when it expresses a close relationship of any number of individual things, e.g.,

  • The jury had to decide between awarding money damages and rescinding the contract.
  • His attention was divided between baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.

By contrast, “among” is generally used when the sentence involves more than two things and does not express a close relationship, e.g.,

  • His present dalliance was just one among many.
  • Dee’s estate was divided among her three children.

A more specific rule:  “Between” is used to express one-to-one relations of many things, e.g., a treaty between four nations.  “Among” is used to express collective and undefined relations, e.g.,

  • In 1988, Hershiser was voted the best among all National League pitchers.

That is all for now …

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