As a researcher, if you’ve often found yourself wondering if there is any difference between “among” and “between,” you’re not alone. While both words refer to the relationship between multiple entities, they are used in different contexts, and understanding the difference is essential for clear and effective communication in research writing.
Difference between ‘among’ and ‘between’
The difference between “among” and “between” is primarily in their usage with respect to the number of entities involved. “Among” is used to describe the relationship of three or more entities, while “between” is used to describe the relationship between two entities.
The Twist: This is a simplified general rule but is not always true. You can actually use between for any number of elements, as long as all the elements are separate and distinct. For instance,
He had to make a choice between a dress, a cutlery set, a pair of curtains, and a new wollen sweater for his grandma’s birthday gift.
When to use ‘between’?
The usage of ‘between’ usually happens in the following cases:
- Comparing two things or entities, for instance, “There is a significant difference in test scores between the two groups.”
- Referring to the position or location of two or more entities, for instance, “The park is located between the two buildings.”
- Referring to a transaction or communication that involves two parties, for instance, “The negotiation between the two companies resulted in a successful merger.”
- Indicating the time period that falls in the middle of two points, for instance, “The concert starts at 7 pm and ends at 10 pm, with a break in between.”
- Referring to a choice or decision involving two options, for instance, “I’m torn between taking a break or continuing to work on my research paper.”
When to use ‘among’?
The usage of ‘among’ usually happens in the following cases:
- Referring to the position or location of three or more entities, for instance, “The library is located among the different faculties on campus.”
- Referring to the relationship or interaction of three or more entities, for instance, “There were significant differences among the three groups in terms of their response to the treatment.”
- Indicating a dispersion or distribution within a group or collection, for instance, “There is a wide range of opinions among the participants in the focus group.”
- Referring to a collective or general situation, rather than individuals or specific items, for instance, “There is a sense of camaraderie among the research team.”
In conclusion, “among” and “between” may seem interchangeable at times, but they are used in different contexts. By understanding the difference between the two, researchers can ensure clear and effective communication in their writing.