WeepingElf wrote: ↑29 Aug 2021 14:10
OK. I am not a native speaker of English, and may have missed something. In my native language, German, we use zwischen
for both 'between' and 'among'.
We do in English, too, don't worry.
Eldin is right that there's a prescriptivist distinction between the two words - it's grown up over time and isn't found in older English writings (partly because 'between' used to be used particularly of groups of more than two, with 'betwixt' used when there's exactly two items). But it's not always adhered to, and more importantly he's wrong about what the distinction actually is.
The distinction is (meant to be) that you use 'among' to indicate that the items form a group and the thing is found somewhere within that group, whereas you use 'between' to indicate that the items are individual and distinct and the thing is precisely located in an intermediate position between them, usually indicating that the things are close together. In particular, each has meanings the other can't have: "among" can mean the thing itself is one of the items (he is among the most famous footballers in Belgium can mean they surround him, or he is one of them), while "between" can mean the thing extends fully from each item to the others.
As a result of these meanings, 'between' is more often used with pairs of items, because they're more likely to be distinct and individual, and it's easier to define an intermediate position or an extend from one to the other. But this is just a coincidence, and there are other non-dual situations where 'between' is appropriate, not 'among'.
Eldin gives an example: war exists between three countries, not among them. Similarly, we would say the Axis was an agreement between three countries, not among them. But also in a physical sense: we share out sweets between three people, not among them, and if three people are holding a sheet they would pull the sheet taut between them, not among them.
[you can have an agreement among... but this suggests more a general consensus among people, rather than a binding treaty on specifically three parties. Likewise you can share things among, but that suggests a general sharing in the things, rather than a strict division into three or more equal portions. In general 'between' is a more precise relation, whereas 'among' is often kind of vague.]
EDIT: thinking about it, the distinction often becomes more clearcut when dealing with plurals. Thus, there is a clear difference in meaning between there are ropes laid out among the poles
(the ropes are laid out vaguely in the area defined by the poles) and there are ropes laid out between the poles
(the ropes are laid out specifically from pole to pole).