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“between” vs “among”

I learned that "between" refers to two objects or concepts and "among" refers to three or more. However, in situations when I am asking about distinctions, it seems correct to say, for example, "What is the difference between a horse, a zebra, and a mule?" as opposed to saying, "What is the difference among a horse, a zebra, and a mule?"

What is the rule for questions like this about the "differences between" several things?

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marked as duplicate by aedia λ, Irene, jwpat7, FumbleFingers, kiamlaluno Dec 20 '11 at 0:10

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

The rule is: > If you are a native English speaker, say what sounds right to you. And write it, too. If you are not a native English speaker, ask a native speaker which one "sounds better" (but not which one is correct -- native English speakers are taught a lot of very strange ideas about so-called "correctness"). – John Lawler Dec 19 '11 at 22:58
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I was taught:

  • Use between when you're talking about individual items -- even if there are more than two of them: "She was stuck between a Rock, a Hard Place, and a Hard Rock Cafe."
  • Use among when you're talking about things that aren't distinct: "Dissension and dissatisfaction spread among the followers of Binky."

Grammar Girl must have had the same teacher.

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Hmm, so according to this it would be correct to say, "The item was discussed between the five committee members." – jrdioko Dec 19 '11 at 23:38
@jrdioko No, five committee members does not describe distinct entities; now, if you said "...discussed between Manny, Moe, Jack, Groucho, and Harpo," that would be correct by this guideline. – Gnawme Dec 19 '11 at 23:42
@jrdioko Read the Grammar Girl article. – Gnawme Dec 19 '11 at 23:44
Ah, now I see what you mean. – jrdioko Dec 19 '11 at 23:45
+1 for the Grammar Girl article. – Himanshu Aggarwal Sep 3 '14 at 3:44

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