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Reciprocal pronouns

Level: intermediate

We use the reciprocal pronouns each other and one another when two or more people do the same thing.

Peter and Mary helped each other.
     =
Peter helped Mary and Mary helped Peter.
We sent one another Christmas cards.
     =
We sent them a Christmas card and they sent us a Christmas card.
They didn't look at each other.
     =
X didn't look at Y and Y didn't look at X.

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

They helped to look after each other's children.
The group of students often stayed in one another's houses.

Note that we do not use reciprocal pronouns as the subject of a clause.

Reciprocal pronouns 1

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Be careful!

Reciprocal pronouns and plural reflexive pronouns (ourselves, yourselves, themselves) have different meanings:

John and Fred killed each other.
      =
John killed Fred and Fred killed John.
John and Fred killed themselves.
      =
John killed himself and Fred killed himself.

Reciprocal pronouns 2

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Comments

I like it

i couldn't understand exactly.what is the difference between one another and each other.in the task how can we decide which is true which is wrong :S

Hello newbietrk,

In the explanation, when it says 'Traditionally, each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people, but this distinction is disappearing in modern English', this means that both forms are often used with the same meaning these days.

In the instructions for the task, however, it says that you should make the traditional distinction, i.e. use 'each other' for two people and 'one another' for three people or more.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

In question no 4, there are 3 people, more than 2... but why, we should use each other ?
Thank you, i hope i will get answer for you all...

Hello Gibrastr,

As it says above, the distinction between the two forms is disappearing - in other words, 'each other' can be used for three or more people as well nowadays.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello ashehadeh,

Now that I look at this more carefully, in question 4, there are only two people: Jack and me. The sentence includes the word 'you', but it refers to Jack, i.e. the sentence is addressed to Jack.

Since there are two people and you are to use the traditional form, 'each other' is the correct answer.

Sorry for the confusion!

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

The most easiest way to remember is to limit the persons like one by one, each other will use. Correct?
In the above given example, Peter and Mary helped one another.", it makes me confuse. Can I always use the traditional method?

Regards,
Oak

Hello Oak,

The explanation above means that nowadays many people use 'one another' and 'each other' with no difference in meaning, so yes.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello

I'm confused. The explanation doesn't match the examples. You are saying:

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

Hello hananturland,

I'm not too sure what exactly you are confused about. The last sentence of the explantion is key here: this distinction is disappearing in modern English. In other words, there used to be a fixed distinction but in modern English the forms are now used largely interchangeably; this is what the examples demonstrate.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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