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Which word is the best suited one to fill the blank, and why?

After the second world war, the city of Berlin was divided ______ USSR,USA AND UK.

Options:

  1. by

  2. with

  3. between

  4. among

I think "between" is the best suited one, though I am not sure. What do I need to learn for these types of questions?

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    I think this test is based on difference of the "between" and "among". look here: dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/… . in my opinion the answer would be among.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 10:13
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    I think this is a bad test question. I upvoted Flak Dinenno as presumably the desired answer. But "by" is also a completely valid word to use in the sentence. Berlin was "divided by" the victorious countries after WW2. Also, there should be a "the" before "USSR".
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 14:29
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    @Jay I was thinking the same thing. This is why I hate it when English problems are presented as statements about history, science or sometimes even math -- they frequently include answers that are indeed valid if you know enough about the material.
    – Crazy Eyes
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 14:50
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    France is missing from the list, so the only possible answer is by. See the links in my answer below for more information.
    – John B
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 16:29
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    There is absolutely no reason not to use between here.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 20:08

4 Answers 4

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Historical context and the naming of specific nations in the question suggests that by is a better answer than between, in my opinion.


This seems to be a lesson in history more than English grammar. There were three heads of government (US, USSR and UK) that met at the Potsdam Conference. They agreed on dividing the city of Berlin into four zones (American, British, French* and Soviet). So, I believe the best answer is by rather than between, because it makes the statement more accurate; i.e., there would be no omission of facts with that answer (see Edit 2).

*French delegates were not at the conference, but a French zone was decided upon at the insistence of the British delegates.

Edit:
Hypothetically, if the question was:

After the second world war, the city of Berlin was divided ______ the USSR, USA, UK and France.

Then, the correct answer could only be between. It could not be by in that case, because French representatives were not part of the delegation doing the dividing.

If the group of nations were less specific, e.g.:

After the second world war, the city of Berlin was divided ______ some of the victors.

Then, as Crazy Eyes pointed out, among would be acceptable. The question would be too vague though, because by could also be used to correctly answer to that question.

Edit 2:
Between is also technically correct, because it doesn't violate any grammatical rules to say that something was divided but only list a subset of the things receiving a part of it. However, explicitly listing all but one part of the group would disingenuously imply to the reader that the list is complete. Choosing by avoids all of that complexity though, which makes it a better choice, in my opinion.

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  • Well, to be more specific, for the answer to be among, the list of countries would have to be changed to a plural noun, like "the city of Berlin was divided among the victors." But yeah, it can't be between, either.
    – Crazy Eyes
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 17:49
  • @CrazyEyes yeah, I suppose I phrased the answer a little awkwardly. Neither between nor among could be used unless the question was reworded. Victors could not have been used either, because that would include other countries, e.g. Canada.
    – John B
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 18:23
  • Doesn't anyone find it strange to say that we can say The cake was divided among the four friends but we cannot say The cake was divided among Jim, Jane, John, and Jack, because it has to be between? Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 19:25
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The answer is definitely BETWEEN


between, among: meaning and use

  • Use between to refer to [two] (or more) things which are clearly separated. (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • Use among to talk about things which are not clearly separated

because they are part of a group or crowd or mass of objects. (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • Among and between can suggest a relationship that is not necessarily physical. (Dictionary.com)

  • Between also continues to be used, as it has been throughout its entire history, to express a relationship of persons or things considered individually, no matter how many. (Dictionary.com)

Examples:

  • Our holiday house is between the mountains and the sea. (the mountains are on one side and the sea is on the other)

  • The ancient fountain was hidden among the trees. (surrounded by trees)

  • among the crowd

  • between two pillars
  • They don't have much sense among them.
  • Between you and me, I don't like any of them.

References:
Cambridge Dictionary: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/between-or-among
Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/among
Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/between
Grammar Girl: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/between-versus-among

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    Please don't use code markup. Quote markup or bold/italics is always preferred here.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 14:35
  • If you insist :-( Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 14:42
  • There were originally four zones when Germany was divided: American, Soviet, British, and French. (image). So according to the first definition that you posted, "Use between to refer to two things..." then between is not correct. But, after reading the answer from @ayteq, I'm not certain about that anymore.
    – John B
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 15:28
  • Notice my slight edit. As supported from my last bulleted definition from Dictionary.com, between can be used for individual items regardless of number Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 16:06
  • Yes, sorry about that. But, after reading more on the subject, I don't think either is the correct choice.
    – John B
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 16:25
1

The correct answer is “between”.

It is often taught that “between” is used for 2 items and “among” for 3 or more. But this is not completely accurate. The more accurate difference is this: “between” is used when naming distinct, individual items (this can be 2, 3, or more).

Source

-2

The difference between between and among is that among refers to more than two, whereas between is limited to only the two sides.

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    Victor, you're wrong here. I also entertained this idea for a while. Make a search. (0: Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 13:27
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    But you get sand between your toes, never sand among your toes.
    – user230
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 14:47
  • @snailboat - I never thought of that! Such a thought never flashed between my ears! Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 16:43
  • Between works hear. .. because toes and ears are distinct. Even with toes, if you mean all your toes - then still at any one time, you're talking about sand between 2 toes, and then another 2 toes, etc. .. Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 20:30

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