definition of between by The Free Dictionary


in the space separating two objects: It was hard to choose between vanilla and chocolate. [Among is used when more than two persons or things are involved. Between is used when only two persons or things are involved.]

Not to be confused with:

among – in association or connection with; surrounded by: You are among friends.

Abused, Confused, & Misused Words by Mary Embree Copyright © 2007, 2013 by Mary Embree





a. In or through the position or interval separating: between the trees; between 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock.

b. Intermediate to, as in quantity, amount, or degree: It costs between 15 and 20 dollars.

2. Connecting spatially: a railroad between the two cities.

3. Associating or uniting in a reciprocal action or relationship: an agreement between workers and management; a certain resemblance between the two stories.

4. In confidence restricted to: Between you and me, he is not qualified.


a. By the combined effort or effect of: Between them they succeeded.

b. In the combined ownership of: They had only a few dollars between them.

6. As measured against. Often used to express a reciprocal relationship: choose between riding and walking.


In an intermediate space, position, or time; in the interim.


in between

In an intermediate situation: My roommates disagreed and I was caught in between.

in between times

During an intervening period; in the meantime: has written several books and teaches in between times.

between′ness n.

Usage Note: The -tween in between comes from the same Indo-European root that gave us two, twain, and duo, and the -mong of among comes from an Old English word that meant “crowd” or “throng.” It is thus unsurprising that a traditional rule requires between to be used only for sentences involving two items and among for sentences involving more than two. Indeed, in sentences involving two items, no rule is needed; native English speakers spontaneously use between (as in the differences between [not among] karate and judo). But when there are more than two items, practice is mixed. Many careful writers observe a more subtle distinction, using among when the sentence refers to the entities collectively or as a mass, as in There were many outstanding players among the teams in the quarterfinal round or A thistle is growing among the roses, but preferring between when the sentence refers to relationships involving particular pairs of entities from within the group, as in We haven’t yet assigned the matchups between teams in the quarterfinal round or I have sand between my toes. In such sentences, the twoness of between has not, so to speak, been lost in the crowd—the pairings within the larger group are important to the meaning of the sentence and thus influence the writer’s choice of preposition.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




1. at a point or in a region intermediate to two other points in space, times, degrees, etc

2. in combination; together: between them, they saved enough money to buy a car.

3. confined or restricted to: between you and me.

4. indicating a reciprocal relation or comparison: an argument between a man and his wife.

5. indicating two or more alternatives: a choice between going now and staying all night.


between one specified thing and another: two houses with a garage between.

[Old English betwēonum; related to Gothic tweihnai two together; see two, twain]

Usage: After distribute and words with a similar meaning, among should be used rather than between: this enterprise issued shares which were distributed among its workers

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014




1. in the space separating: between New York and Chicago.

2. intermediate to in time, quantity, or degree: between twelve and one o’clock.

3. linking; connecting: air service between cities.

4. in equal portions for each of: The couple split the profits between them.

5. among: sharing responsibilities between the five of us.

6. by the common participation of: Between us, we can finish the job.

7. in the choice or contrast of: the difference between good and bad.

8. by the combined effect of.

9. existing confidentially for: We’ll keep this between ourselves.

10. involving; concerning: war between nations.


11. in the intervening space or time: visits that were far between.


in between, in an intermediate place.

[before 900; Middle English; Old English betwēonan=be- be- + twēonum (, c. Gothic tweihnai two each]

be•tween′ness, n.

usage: By traditional usage rules, among expresses relationship when more than two are involved and between is used for only two: to decide between tea and coffee. between, however, continues to be used, as it has been throughout its history, to express relationship of persons or things considered individually, no matter how many: Between holding public office, teaching, and raising a family, she has little free time. Between you and I, though heard occasionally in the speech of even educated persons, is usually considered incorrect. By the rules of grammar, any and all pronouns that are the object of a preposition must be in the objective case: between you and me; between her and them. The construction between each (or every) is fully standard when the sense indicates that more than one thing is meant: Marigolds peeked between each row of vegetables.

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. describing position

If something is between two things, it has one of the things on one side of it and the other thing on the other side of it.

Janice was standing between the two men.

Northampton is roughly halfway between London and Birmingham.

Be Careful!
Don’t say that something is “” several things. You say that it is among them.

2. differences

You talk about a difference between two or more things or people. Don’t use “”.

What is the difference between football and soccer?

There isn’t much difference between the three parties.

3. choosing

When someone makes a choice, you say that they choose between two or more things or people. Don’t use “”.

It was difficult to choose between the two candidates.

You can choose between tomato, cheese or meat sauce on your pasta.

You say that someone chooses between one thing or person and another.

She had to choose between work and her family.

Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012

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