Grammar-QuizzesNoun PhrasesNounsPronouns › Reciprocal Pronouns

Each other vs. One another

Express a reciprocal relationship

loose tooth
 

Each other vs. One another 

EACH OTHER

two holding handsEach other like all pronouns refers back to a noun that comes before it (an antecedent).  However, because it is a reciprocal pronoun, it refers to two nouns or a group noun. It expresses what one person feels toward or does for the other; the other feels or does the same in return.

RECIPROCAL —TWO

Sophie loves Jim and Jim loves Sophie.

Sophie and Jim love each other.  (refers to subject)

Sophie and Jim each love the other.

Each person loves the other person.

Occasionally, they get angry at each other.   (refers to subj. pronoun)

Occasionally, they each get angry at the other.

Occasionally, each gets angry at the other.

We have to protect them from each other.   (refers to obj. pronoun)

We have to protect each of them from the other.

 

Sophie and Jim² believe that each other is wrong.  (refers to subject of the main clause) 

*Each other is wrong.  (missing antecedent)

RECIPROCAL—TWO OR MORE

Our family loves each other.

After a fight, each person apologizes to the others.

ONE ANOTHER

two holding handsOne another expresses the same idea of reciprocity  ("one and another").   However, some people use each other for two people and one another for more than two. Other people use each other and one another in the same contexts. This difference is disputed (not accepted by all.)

RECIPROCAL—TWO

Sophie loves Jim and Jim loves Sophie. 

Sophie and Jim love one another¹.

~One person loves another person.  (unclear meaning)

 

Occasionally, they get angry at one another.

~One person gets angry at another(unclear meaning)

 

We have to protect them from one another.

 

*Sophie and Jim believe one another³ is wrong.

*One another is wrong.

RECIPROCAL—TWO OR MORE

Our family loves one another.

After a fight, everyone apologizes to one another.

 

*not used / ~unclear meaning, awkward usage, requires a particular context

reciprocal (Adj) – given, done, felt in return, mutual (A-B and B-A)

¹Each other, one another: "Two people look at each other, More than two look at one another. Either phrase may be used when the number is indefinite: We help each other. We help one another." —Associated Press (2016)

²"Sophie and Jim" are antecedents of "each other". That is to say that the nouns/names are mentioned first so that we know who "each other" refers to.

³One another ("one and the other") This expression is not used as the subject of a clause, nor is it used as the subject of a subordinate clause. However, the expression "each other" does occur, perhaps informally, as the subject of a subordinate clause. They think that [each other is cheating].

(Huddleston 17 §4)

See Grammar Notes below regarding the disputed usage of each other and one another.

 

 

 

 

One Another

One to the next one

 

 

"All to each other" vs. "One to the next one"

ONE ANOTHER – BACK AND FORTH "RECIPROCAL"

reciprocalOne another may express reciprocity among sets or groups.  Each one acts/feels with all others: "all to each other". 

RECIPROCAL —TWO OR MORE

Our family loves one another. 

(Each member of our family loves every member of the family.)

Chris, Pat and Robin protect one another.

The staff collaborates with one another.

ONE ANOTHER – ON TO NEXT  "LINEAR"

linearOne another may also express a "next one" concept among sets or groups. Each one act/feels with the next one: "one to the next".  (Think linear.)

RECIPROCAL —TWO OR MORE

The brothers hand down their clothes to one another. 

(As the boys grow, each gives his clothes to the younger child.)

At dinner, we pass bread to one another.

We sit next to one another.

The villagers handed buckets of water to one another to put out the fire.

The students passed a note to one another in class.

 

collaborate (V) – work with

 

 

 

 

Reciprocal Pronoun Agreement

Express two or more entities with plural nouns

 

 

Plural and Singular Exceptions

PLURAL

Because a reciprocal pronoun involves two or more entities (people, things, concepts), the noun forms are usually plural. Similarly, the genitive (possessive) noun is also usually plural (unless it is a noncount noun).

SUBJECT NOUN

All love each other. 

 

The husband and wife get angry at each other. 

 

GENITIVE NOUN

We know each other's experiences.  (both count and non-count)

We know the experiences of each other.

We know each other's names.  (the names differ)

 

SINGULAR —EXCEPTIONS

However, a few words that are singular in form may express two or more entities. This is true for indefinite pronouns everyone, everybody, none and for collective pronouns family, staff, team, and so on.

SUBJECT NOUN

Everyone loves each other. 

(Everyone "in general" is an indefinite pronoun.)

The couple gets angry at each other. 

(The focus is on the individuals of the group noun.)

GENITIVE NOUN

We know each other's experience. (both count and non-count)

We know the experience of each other.

We know each other's name. (e.g., they share a last name)

 

 

Also see Unusual Singular/Plural Nouns—plural in form but singular in agreement.

 

 

 

 

Genitive Reciprocal Pronouns

Express possession, relationship or traits

 

 

Each other's / One another's

EACH OTHER'S

Each other takes the genitive (or possessive) form, which is written with an apostrophe plus s.  While the antecedent (the noun that it refers back to) may be two plural nouns, the reciprocal pronoun is singular.

ONE OR MORE THAN ONE

Sophie and Jim like each other's companionship.   (plural verb)

Sophie and jim like the companionship of each other. "of"

A counselor advises¹ the group about each other's responsibilities. 

 

Sophie and Jim dispute each others' rights. (misplaced apostrophe)

ONE ANOTHER'S

One another also takes the genitive form, which is written with an apostrophe plus s.  Even though the antecedent is plural, the reciprocal pronoun is singular in its genitive (possessive) form.

ONE OR MORE THAN ONE

Sophie and Jim like one another's companionship.   (plural verb)

Sophie and jim like the companionship of one another. "of"

A counselor advises the group about one another's responsibilities. 

 

Sophie and Jim dispute one anothers' rights. (misplaced apostrophe)

 

¹warn__about each other, protect__from each other, introduce__to each other, confine___to each other (Huddleston 279)

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*Sal and Em text themselves several times a day. 

(Sal texts to Sal and Em texts to Em.)

*They married each other last year.

(It is unnecessary to mention "each other" if "they" refers to one couple.)
 

*The sisters opened and read each others' email.

*After such behavior, they no longer love theirselves.

 

*The two bags were put inside one another.  (impossible!)

SOLUTION

Sal and Em text each other several times a day.

(Sal texts to Em and Em texts to Sal.)

They married last year. They [Sophie and Jim] became man and wife.

They married each other.  They [Person1 and Person 2]  each officiated the ceremony for the other person and his/her partner.

The sisters opened and read each other's / one another's email. 

(The apostrophe is placed after other [singular] or another [singular].)

After such behavior, they no longer love themselves or each other.

(Use either themselves or each other or both.

The two bags were put one inside the another.

 

The verbs marry and meet do not usually include each otherThey met in 1998.  They married in 2001.  (Swan 171.5)

 

 

 

 

► Show Grammar Notes and Works Cited ▼ Hide Grammar Notes

Grammar Notes(disputed usage)

Traditional Grammar and Current Description

 

 

Each other / One another

MEANINGS DIFFER

Each other, one another Two people look at each other, More than two look at one another. Either phrase may be used when the number is indefinite: We help each other. We help one another. —Associated Press (2016)

"Traditionalists use each other when two things or people are involved, one another when more than two are involved."—The Chicago Manual of Style 278 (2010)

Usage authorities have traditionally suggested that each other should refer to two people or entities <John and Bob helped each other>, one another to more than two <all of them loved one another> ... Careful writers will doubtless continue to observe the distinction, but no one else will notice.  (Language Change Index (i.e. for more than two items) Stage 4.) —Garner (2009)

"Use each other in sentences involving two subjects and one another in sentences involving more than two."—Lunsford (1999)

As mentioned by Merriam Webster, "Actually the prescriptive rule goes back even farther…"  Ayers (1881), Goold Brown (1851), T. O. Churchill (A New Grammar of the English Language, London 1823)

Fowler (1926) notes that some writers follow the rule but goes on to state that "the differentiation is neither of present utility nor based on historical usage; the old distributive of two as opposed to several…would doubtless have survived if its special meaning had been required."—Burchfield (2004)

MEANINGS ALIKE

Each other and one another mean the same... Each other and one another are not used as subjects (though this occasionally happens in subordinate clauses in very informal speech).—Swan 171

We conclude that the rule restricting each other to two and one another to more than two was cut out of the whole cloth. There is no sin in its violation. It is, however easy and painless to observe if you so wish.—Merriam-Webster 378  

If each other is by now a fully established pronoun, there is no grammatical reason it could not be the subject of a clause, but it is simply not so used. Perhaps uncertainly about the number of the verb is a deterrent.—Merriam-Webster 378

One Another: There Will Always Prove to Be a Difference. But the belief is untenable, as can be seen from the following departures from the 'rule": (each other used to refer to more than two)...—Burchfield and Fowler "each"

The reciprocal pronouns each other and one another are used when the verb's meaning applies mutually between two or more people or groups of people, as in [examples]...—Aarts 50

 

 

 

Works Cited

  • Aarts, Bas. "Reciprocal and reflexive pronouns." Oxford Modern English Grammar. by Oxford UP, 2011.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Edited by Thomas Kent, et al., 51st ed., AP, 2016.
  • Burchfield, R. W. and H. W. Fowler. Fowler's Modern English Usage, revised 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2004.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed., U of Chicago P, 2010.
  • Garner, Bryan A. "Each other." Garner's Modern American Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2009.
  • Huddleston, Rodney and Geoffrey K. Pullum."Reciprocals." The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Lunsford, Andrea A., and Robert J. Connors. The New St. Martin's Handbook. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999.
  • Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. "Each other." Merriam-Webster. 2016, merriam-webster.com.
  • Swan, Michael. "Each other and one another." Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005. 
  • Whitman, Neal. "'Each Other' Versus 'One Another' ." Grammar Girls: Quick and Dirty Tips. 30 June 2011. quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/each-other-versus-one-another. Accessed on 1 Oct. 2016.

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Practice 1

Family Relay Team

passing a baton
 

Four Brothers Form a Team

The four Moore brothers are a remarkable 4X100m relay team. James and William who are twins, age 21, first became involved in track and field in high school.  They trained together and went on to win several 100m and 200m sprint events. Their two younger brothers Harry, age 19, and Donald, age 18, weren't especially interested in track and field, but when James and William encouraged them, they began sprinting too. They also found themselves to be gifted runners.

The following spring, the older twins encouraged the younger brothers to participate with them in an upcoming 4X100m relay race, and they agreed. The two older bothers helped the younger brothers to improve their running times and their baton passing skills. As a result, the Moore brothers not only won that relay but went on to win four more and broke one state record in the 4X100 relay. Currently all four have track scholarships and are attending different colleges and doing well on their respective track teams.

baton (N) – a metal or wood stick that is passed from one runner to the other; a baton is also used by police and by marchers in parades (a twirling baton).

relay race (NP) – a race made up of usually four short "legs" (lengths) in which an individual runs and passes a baton which enables the next runner to begin the next leg, and so on, until the last runner crosses the finish line.

respective (Adj) – refers to each individual in his/her particular college (not all together)

sprint (N) – a short distance race; (v) run a fast, short distance race (100m or 200m).

track and field – the division of sports that involves running, jumping, and throwing (in the Olympics)

 
 

Complete the sentence with one or more reciprocal pronouns.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

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