Among vs. Across

“Shoot for the moon and if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.” Les Brown, an American motivational speaker

“Thanks to technology, we can instantly communicate across the world.” Jonathan Sacks, a British rabbi

Have you ever wondered what the difference between “across” and “among” is? It may seem easy, but consider the sentences: 1) Unemployment is quite high, especially among young people. 2) Unemployment is quite high across the continent. Is it just about a place and a group of people? Read on to make it all clear…

1. Within a group (usually of people, sometimes – things) 

Examples: 1) There is a lack of motivation among the staff. 2) The decision will not be popular among students. 3) The case has stirred great anger among the public. 4) Most important among the country’s problems is the lack of health facilities.
1. From one side to the other 

Examples: 1) I was walking across the road. 2) They’ve built a new bridge across the river. 3) Rabbits were hopping across the field. 4) We were thinking about driving across America.
2. In the middle / in the midst of 

Examples: 1) It was pleasant strolling among the olive trees. 2) Robin’s house was hidden among the trees. 3) He disappeared among the crowd. 4) I found Michelle rummaging among the papers in my drawer. (= searching through them) 
2. On the opposite side 

Examples: 1) There’s a library just across the street. 2) Anyone from the houses across the road could see him. 3) When I saw you across the room, I knew I’d met you before. 4) They had opened a new factory across the border in Mexico.
3. To each one in a group 

Examples: 1) She divided the cake among the children. 2) The money has to be shared out among several projects. 3) Most of the furniture was left to the neighbors or distributed among friends. 4) She tried to ensure her affection was equally shared among all three children.
3. Used after a measurement to show how wide something is 

Examples: 1) The window measures two meters across. 2) This hand-decorated plate measures 30cm across. 3) The snails are no larger than one centimeter across. 4) The channel is less than half a mile across in some places.
 4. Used for saying that something includes or affects a whole range of people or things

Examples: 1) We need to test students’ ability across a wide range of subjects. 2) Parties are competing across the political spectrum. 3) It should be noted that the gravity of the problem is not the same across the group. 4) We want higher living standards and reduced poverty across the community.

Pay special attention to meaning 4 of “across” and meaning 1 of “among.” They both have something to do with a certain group. But while you can definitely say that something is the case among, say, students, you cannot say “across students.” Compare:

  1. The decision will not be popular among students. (OK)
  2. The decision will not be popular across students.
  3. The decision will not be popular across the community of students. (OK)

Picture the difference between “among” and “across” like this:



Memorize the following expressions using “among” and “across.”

  1. Among other things – used when you are mentioning one or more things out of a larger number: 1) They discussed, among other things, the future of the oil industry. 2) Among other things, Churchill was an accomplished writer and historian.
  2. Across the board – affecting everyone or every part of something: 1) Jobs are likely to be lost across the board. 2) The same criteria will be applied across the board.

In our next post, we’ll look at phrasal verbs using “across” as a particle. Subscribe to our blog not to miss it! 😉

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