We use the reciprocal pronouns each other and one another when two or more people do the same thing. Traditionally, each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people, but this distinction is disappearing in modern English.

  • Peter and Mary helped one another.
    Peter helped Mary and Mary helped Peter.
  • We sent each other Christmas cards.
    We sent them a Christmas card and they sent us a Christmas card.
  • They didn’t look at one another.
    = He didn't look at her and she didn't look at him.

We also use the possessive forms each other’s and one another’s:

They helped to look after each other’s children.
We often stayed in one another’s houses.

NOTE: We do not use reciprocal pronouns as the subject of a clause.

Exercise

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Comments

Hello
Sorry but I don't understand
Do they mean that in modern English :one another refers to two people and each other refers to more than two people??
Thanks in advance

Hello Marwa1083,

It used to be the case that each other referred to two people and one another referred to more than two people. However, in modern English this distinction is disappearing and nowadays there is no difference in how the two phrases are used; both can be used for two people or for more than two people.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,

In the questions to complete about reciprocal pronouns, question number 4 is ok as "I gave him a present and he gave me a present. We gave each other presents."

I'd like to know your opinion on "I gave him a present and he gave me a present. We gave presents to each other."

Thank you in advance for your answer.

Jorge

Hi Jorge,

That is fine. You can use both constructions with give:

give someone something

give something to someone

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply, Peter.

Hello ..
I wanna ask about sth .. u wrote above in the explanation part "Traditionally, each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people" , but it contrasts with the examples u mentioned ;
Peter and Mary helped "one another". >> refers to TWO PEOPLE
= Peter helped Mary and Mary helped Peter.
We sent "each other" Christmas cards. >> refers to MORE than two people
= We sent them a Christmas card and they sent us a Christmas card.
thanks in advance for your help :)

Hello marwa kassoumeh,

The explanation here is as follows:

Traditionally, each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people, but this distinction is disappearing in modern English.

In other words, this is a rule which is disappearing. In the past it was different, but in modern English the distinction is disappearing. As our examples represent current use they do not show this distinction.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I got it .. thank u so much :)

Good evening
In spite of difference among each other and one another, according above examples and description, we can use both of them instead of each other and there is no difference between them in modern English, am I right?

Thanks

Hello Fatemeh Roostaei,

In general they are used interchangeably in modern English, yes. It is possible that there may be some contexts in which one or the other is not normally used but I cannot think of any.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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