ELL Guide

A guide for ELL (English Language Learners) at the University of Maine at Augusta

Between/Among

Between and among are commonly used as prepositions.  Between is used for relationships of two or more items.  Among is used for relationship of three or more items.  Between is usually more specific while among is often more general.  

Examples of between and among used in sentences.  

The Student Government Association distributed pencils and notebooks AMONG all the students that day.   Distributed is a verb that is often paired with among.  

I asked my advisor what the main difference was BETWEEN the two instructors.  This a discussion a two-item (two instructors, in this case) relationship.  The speaker wants to know how the two specific instructors are different.  

I am lucky to sit BETWEEN my best friends Bilal and Jake when I am in that boring three-hour lecture every week.  Here the speaker is provided a specific physical location, which is typical of the world between.  

The instructor did not directly say I needed to do the extra credit assignment if I wanted an A in class, but I could READ BETWEEN THE LINES.   Read between the lines is a common idiom using between that means that there is subtext or additionally meaning to the exact words that were said or written that needs to be understood.  

AMONG all of my classes, this was the most difficult.  The speaker has more than two classes and refers to them generally.  

BETWEEN this and my other science class, this was more difficult.  The speaker discusses a relationship between two specific classes.  

BETWEEN the Bangor and Augusta campus, I prefer the one closer to me.  The speaker discusses a relationship between two specific campuses--Bangor and Augusta.  

AMONG all of the centers at the University, this one is the most convenient for me to come to.   The speaker discusses a relationship among more than two centers and does so in a general fashion.  

When I first came to the University, I felt I was AMONG strangers; now I feel like I am AMONG friends.   The speaker discusses their relationship with a general group of people (many more than two).  

I am not sure what I will do BETWEEN semesters.  The speaker refers to a specific space or period of time.  

AMONG all of your semesters here, which was your favorite?  The speaker asks a question about the relationship of many semesters (more than two).  

BETWEEN Spring term and Fall, which do you like better?  The speaker asks a question about the relationship of two specific semesters.  

The shirts were DISTRIBUTED AMONG the students before the big game in order to increase school pride.  Among is often used with the verb distributed.  

I parked my car in the student parking lot BETWEEN your car and our friend Zaida’s car.  The speaker refers to a specific physical location.  

I can always find you AMONG the crowd because of your awesome UMA hat.  Among is often paired with the word crowd because of the generality crowd connotes.  

AMONG all of my coffee mugs, my UMA mug is my favorite to use while I am studying.  The speaker refers to a relationship of many different mugs (more than two).  

Let’s keep this secret AMONG friends.   Among indicates that there are probably many friends that know this secret.  Between could also be used here, but may subtly alter the meaning to indicate a more specific group of friends.  However, it is also possible that either word could be used with virtually the same meaning intended.  It is important to note that sometimes, as perhaps in this example, either word could be used.  

I have a special handshake that is just BETWEEN me and my best friend.  Only two people share the special handshake.  

My apartment building is BETWEEN two restaurants.  A specific location is pinpointed.  

BETWEEN you and me, I really like it when our instructor lets us out early.  Between you and me is a common phrase, especially when speaking.  The speaker may want what follows the phrase to not be distributed among other people.  Or the speaker may not mean much by between you and me as it can also be used as a filler or throwaway phrase, like to be honest with you is sometimes used.  

Between/Among Quiz  

Fill in the blank with either between or among.  

  1. What do you like to do ________________   classes?  

  2. __________ all of your classes, which is your favorite?   

  3. My best friend never says exactly what he means.  When he talks you have to read ___________  the lines.  

  4. I have some fliers to distribute _________________ the whole student body.  

  5. My apartment is in the dorm _____________ the two other dorms.  It is in the middle.   

  6. I found just one four-leaf clover _________  the many three-leaf clovers in the field.  

  7. Let’s just keep our special handshake _________________  you and me.  

  8. __________ all of our friends, who is the best at giving advice?  

  9. __________  Batman and Superman, who do you think would win a fight?  

  10. This is just a story we tell __________ our family; we don’t tell it to other people.   

 

Between/Among Quiz Answers 

1. Between 2.  Among  3.  Between  4.  Among  5.  Between  6. Among 7. Between 8. Among  9. Between  10.  Among  

Pop culture references with between or among:  

Between Two Ferns: A web series and mockumentary starring Zack Galifianakis.  

"What's the difference between you and me?"--repeated refrain in the Dr. Dre hit song "What's the Difference" 

"Among the Stars"--song by Johnny Cash 

A Stranger Among Us, a 1992 film starring Melanie Griffith  

 

Accessibility Statement
The University provides reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities upon request. Any person with a disability who needs accommodations for a workshop should contact UMA Libraries at uma.library@maine.edu to submit a request. Due to the lead-time needed to arrange certain accommodations, individuals should submit their request no later 1 week before the event.