What I have learnt that we use "among" when we are talking about more than two, and "between" for two.


1 Between the students in the class which is the best?

2 The U.N.O. insists on better understanding between the countries of the world.

3 There is a treaty between the five great power.

But in these sentences "between" is used. There are many more examples like this. When we use "between" for more than two things or people. Can you explain the reason behind this?

Thank you


1 Answer 1



Although between does express some kind of relationship involving two of something, we must be careful to define the word's meaning in a way that would not reject a sentence like this:

There is a treaty between the five great powers.

Looking at the raw number of entities involved in the utterance is not a good way to decide whether or not to use between. The two-ness can be a very abstract thing, not just a physical thing like two parked cars.

You can walk between two parked cars.

You and your cousin can settle a dispute between the two of you.

The ball can pass between the goalposts.

You might have to complete an assignment between now and next Wednesday.

You might even hear a person reprimand a group of six middle-school boys who have been found doing something stupid and dangerous:

You nitwits, you don't have an ounce of common sense between the lot of you.

or hear something like this:

We all wanted to chip in to buy him a gift for coaching the peewee basketball team. Between the eight of us, we were able to get him a box of his favorite cigars.

What does between mean in those sentences?

There the idea is one of mutual contribution, each person contributing towards a common "pot", in the first example, the pot of common sense, in the second, the pot of money needed to buy the coach a gift. It is the relationship between the person and the "pot" that is expressed by between.


among expresses the underlying idea of in-the-midst-of-many.

He walked among the crowd.

Is there a doctor among you? One of the golfers in our party needs medical attention.

Among the reasons for the obesity epidemic in the United States is the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .