relations among/between people


Hello, there!

Which preposition do you think is the good one in this sentence:

1. "social relations between people"

2. "social relations among people"

  • St. Nick

    Senior Member
    At the moment, I prefer "between," unless there is something about the context that implies an ongoing interchange among various people over a broad period of time. And, even then, I'd probably lean toward 'between.'

    Still, to know for sure, we'd have to see the sentence.


    Senior Member
    Castilian (Patagonian)
    Just as a word collocation indicator:

    social relations between people: about 434,000,000 results
    social relations among people: about 135,000,000 results

    Well, everything in English depends on "writer's intentions": as individuals or an entity (group)?

    E.g.: Disability, homelessness and social relationships among people living with psychosis in Australia.
    Last edited:
    The rule that I learned is:

    Between: when referring to only two (persons or things)
    Among: when referring to more than two (persons or things)

    So, in this case I would say that your second choice is correct:

    2. "social relations among people"

    I was going to suggest to wait for the confirmation from an native anglophone, but the fact that St. Nick is suppouse to be a native English-speaker through me off and leave me puzzling.




    Senior Member
    Hola, Tritón37.
    Ésta es también la regla que yo aprendí. Y también me sorprendió el aporte de St. Nick.


    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    "Between" would mean individually, between two people at a time, as you all have said.
    "Among" would mean between groups of people, multiple people at once.
    So it depends on what is meant. But this is one of those rules that are frequently ignored.

    St. Nick

    Senior Member
    The rule does hold true, but the nature of the meaning of "relations" presents a unique situation:

    'Relations between the workers and their employers remain fragile.'

    "Among" would change the meaning of this sentence.

    St. Nick

    Senior Member
    Two sides? Not always:

    'The social relations between Mark and the hookers at the brothel are strictly business.'

    "Among" doesn't work here either.


    Then, would we ask about the relations among Mary and her mom and her sister? Is that what you're saying?
    No. The fact that you are pointing out each individual makes this a bit special. like a one-to-one relationship. I've found this that answers all our arguing:
    There is a persistent but unfounded notion that between can be used only of two items and that among must be used for more than two. Between has been used of more than two since Old English; it is especially appropriate to denote a one-to-one relationship, regardless of the number of items. It can be used when the number is unspecified <economic cooperation between nations>, when more than two are enumerated <between you and me and the lamppost> <partitioned between Austria, Prussia, and Russia — Nathaniel Benchley>, and even when only one item is mentioned (but repetition is implied) <pausing between every sentence to rap the floor — George Eliot>. Among is more appropriate where the emphasis is on distribution rather than individual relationships <discontent among the peasants>. When among is automatically chosen for more than two, English idiom may be strained <a worthy book that nevertheless falls among many stools — John Simon> <the author alternates among modern slang, clichés and quotes from literary giants — A. H. Johnston>.

    Almighty Egg

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    Isn't it that when there are disparate groups (or individuals), the preposition is between.
    And when it refers to what happens within a group we use among?

    As in "relations between the office workers" implies two individuals or two or more separate groups of workers doesn't it?
    "relations amongst the office workers" implies a single group, with individuals in it relating in some way...



    Senior Member
    British English
    Well done Mirx. I once read a very similar explanation to this, and I have always defended that the "between 2, among more" rule doesn't always work. But when I've needed to quote something like this, I haven't found it. I'm keeping it now for future reference.
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