Original sentence: Neil's real mission is to encourage scientific thinking among the American public.

I've never seen encourage can be used with "among", only "to". The closest quesiton I've found in this site is this one. But I am still not sure.

I know "to" indicates a movement, from one point to another point. I can imagine someone delivers a message from one person to another person. What about among? The dictionary says "among" means something happens to a group of people. I still don't understand. This is so foreign to me. Can someone please explain this usage?

  • I think you're parsing the sentence slightly incorrectly. Among isn't really "connected" to encourage. Neil's mission is to <verb>. Where is he doing it? Among the American public.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 14:21
  • 2
    He is encouraging the American public to think scientifically - is that what you mean? This sentence expresses it another way; encouraging a certain behaviour among a group of people. Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 14:38
  • Hello Kate. Thank you for your answer. I’m still not sure the difference between using to and among in this case. Do they have a subtle difference in meaning? Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 1:06

2 Answers 2


This usage is quite natural and grammatically valid. To encourage something among a group is to attempt to persuade the members of the group to adopt the thought or behavior in question.

Some examples:

  • To encourage cooperation among the member states in all fields and to recommend related policies to the Supreme Council for approval.

from The GCC and the International Relations of the Gulf by Matteo Legrenzi (2015)

  • In 1987, the European Council produced a resolution to encourage cooperation among member states in the field of civil protection. This was followed by a series of Council resolutions and decisions ...

from Explaining EU Internal Security Cooperation by Mark Rhinard and ‎Raphael Bossong (2017)

  • Parents encourage cooperation among their offspring, who are siblings of one another. For the same reason, grandparents encourage cooperation among their grandchildren, who include cousins of one another.

from Supernatural and Natural Selection: Religion and ... by Lyle B. Steadman and ‎Craig T. Palmer (2015)

  • ... communicate high expectations was implemented with significantly higher frequency than other principles, and encourage cooperation among students and encourage student-faculty contact were least frequently practiced.

from *The Perfect Online Course: Best Practices for Designing and ...*by Michael Simonson, ‎Terry L. Hudgins, ‎Anymir Orellana (2009) p 97.

  • to encourage cooperation among participating states and to facilitate their integration into European structures members

from The CIA World Factbook 2009 - Page 761

  • ... non cooperative behavior of peers by adding incentive schemes that discourage the existence of free-riders and encourage cooperation among nodes to share resources in order to increase the total capacity of the P2P system.

from Advances in Communication Systems and Electrical Engineering by He Huang and ‎Yuh-Shyan Chen (2008) p 53

All Examples taken from the results of a Google Books search for "encourage cooperation among", which an Ngram shows as the most frequent result for "encpurage * among".

The OP asks in a comment:

Are there differences between using encourage to and encourage among in this case? –

There is no magic difference, nor is the difference very laege. Let's cconsider some examples:

  • (1) I will encourage John to communicate more.
  • (2) I will encourage more communication between John and Susan,
  • (3) I will encourage more communication among the children
  • (4) I will encourage Fred to cooperate more.
  • (5) I will encourage more cooperation between Fred and Joan.
  • (6) I will encourage more cooperation among the Staff

In (1) the encouragement is directed only at John, and he is being encourages to communicate with anyone.

In (2) the encouragement is directed at both John and Susan, and each i encouraged to communicate with the other.

In (3) all of "the children" are being encouraged, and each is being encouraged to communicate with all of the others.

(4), (5), and (5) correspond closely to (1), (2), and (3).

  • Hello David. Thank you for your answer. This is what I found too on Google. Are there differences between using encourage to and encourage among in this case? Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 1:04
  • @mathdummies I have attempted to answer your comment by adding to my answer above. Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 2:04
  • Thank you for your detailed answer! I have googled "among + [Noun of a group of people]" and "to + [Noun of a group of people]". "To" is more commonly used. Would you suggest using "to" instead of "among" for this usage, if the difference in meaning is so minimal? I asked this because I don't want to risk making mistakes in formal writing. If "to" is a safer choice, I'll stick to "to". Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 5:22
  • @mathdummies The difference in meaning is significant, not minimal, and so you should use the choice that matches the intended meaning, Using "to" when "among" is meant will result in an unclear or misleading sentence. The word "among" should be used when the verb is to be applied between various members of the group. The word "to" may be used when the subject is a single person, or the verb is to be applied separately to each member of a group.. Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 5:37
  • I reread your answer again. If I encourage scientific thinking among the American public, I encourage American citizens to adopt scientific thinking with other American citizens. Each citizen should use this style of thinking, for example, when making group decision together with all of their American peers. If I encourage scientific thinking to the American public, I encourage each American citizen to practise scientific thinking individually, but I don’t necessarily encourage them to practise it when they are with other people. Am I correct? Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 8:21

One encourages to do something:

Sue encouraged Tony to eat more green vegetables.

Note the verb phrase.

In the example you cited, encourage is being used differently… pretty much as a synonym for endorse. There the complement is a noun phrase that specifies the behavior being endorsed. Syntactically, it’s completely parallel to

The teacher rewards careful study among his students.

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