What is the right way to query for differences between two things?

Which one is right?

1. What is different between "A" and "B"?

2. What is the difference between "A" and "B"?

3. What are the differences between "A" and "B"?

• Can you give us a bit more context to work with? – PerryW May 28 '16 at 7:21
• Can we use all of them? – Nguyễn Quốc Việt May 28 '16 at 7:23
• 'Can we use all of them?' A qualified yes, but they would not work in all circumstances. It largely depends on what A and B are (and you'd put a 'the' before differences in 3). 1 would probably read better with 'about' rather than 'between' but again, it depends on context – PerryW May 28 '16 at 7:27

Without context it's very difficult to answer the question so these are nothing more than broad generalisations to meet the broad nature of the question

What is different between "A" and "B"?

Suggests a relationship between A and B that has changed - "What is different between John and Jane, they used to be so happy"

What is the difference between "A" and "B"?

Invites a singular answer - "What is the difference between an elephant and a snake? One is a mammal and the other is a reptile.

What are the differences between "A" and "B"?

Invites an answer in the form of a list - "What are the differences between an elephant and a snake? One is a mammal and the other is a reptile, one has legs the other hasn't, one has a trunk the other is venomous etc. etc.

So, there isn't a 'Which one is right' answer, only a which is right for the question you want to ask.

And finally, to be really pedantic, by putting A and B in quotes, you suggest a literal use - the letters A and B. So a valid answer would be "A is a vowel and B is a consonant"

• Excellent! The examples, like the relationship between John and Jane to illustrate "different between", an essential difference for "the difference between", and a list for "differences between", should show a learner a lot about how the various forms of "different" and "between" resonate with … different elements of different contexts. – Ben Kovitz May 28 '16 at 9:17