Today we're going to talk about the difference between the words “between” and “among.”
You may have noticed that I said we were going to talk about the difference between the words “between” and “among.” I used the word “between” because I was talking about a choice that involves two distinct words.
Many people believe “between” should be used for choices involving two items and “among” for choices that involve more than two items. That can get you to the right answer some of the time, but it's not that simple (1, 2, 3, 4).
Here's the deal: you can use the word “between” when you are talking about distinct, individual items even if there are more than two of them. For example, you could say, "She chose between Harvard, Brown, and Yale" because the colleges are individual items.
“Between” and “among” can also tell the reader different things about location or direction. Think about the difference between these two sentences:
Squiggly walked between the trees.
Squiggly walked among the trees.
“Squiggly walked between the trees” gives you the idea that he stayed on the path; he either walked between two trees or was on a route that was surrounded by trees.
On the other hand, “Squiggly walked among the trees” gives you the idea that he wandered around a park or forest. He may have had an endpoint in mind, but it doesn't sound as if he went from point A to point B on a defined path.