Is the word tandem strictly used for 2 things working together or can it also apply to 3 things working together?

For example is it correct to say "Advertising, pricing, and consumer preference work in tandem to determine the success of a product."?

Ignoring whether that is a true statement, is it grammatically correct and if not, what would be a better word to use in it's place?

1 Answer 1


Yes, in tandem may refer to more than just two things or persons:

When things or people are in tandem, they're together — either physically side by side, happening at the same time, or working as a cohesive team.

The original meaning of the word tandem is "a carriage pulled by horses harnessed one in front of the other." By the 1880s, the meaning had shifted to "two-seated bicycle." Things are in tandem when they basically work like a bicycle built for two. Walk alongside your best friend, and you're walking in tandem. Work on an assembly line that moves products along efficiently, and you're working in tandem with your co-workers.


  • At least in America there is a term “tandem garage” for a place to park where cars are lined up behind other cars rather than next to them. This illustrates a strong connotation of in a line rather than parallel. As is both the original carriage and the bicycle. I thing using tandem for two or more things working in parallel could be confusing or misleading. Jan 24, 2023 at 17:02
  • The entry in Vocabulary.com seems more folksy than scholarly in its approach. The word "tandem" is from Latin where its various meanings include "at length", which seems a reasonable way to decribe horses and tandem bicyclists. Obviously it would be difficult to have fewer than two in tandem. To my way of thinking, people acting in tandem are acting one after the other; saying that they work "in concert" would be better in the example. It's worth mentioning for completeness that there is a style of bicycle known as the 'sociable' where the riders are seated side-by-side on a two-wheeler. Jan 24, 2023 at 20:43
  • @Duckspindle "in concert" is also a good term that I might use next time this arises. Thanks for the suggestion.
    – JoeJam
    Jan 25, 2023 at 21:43

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