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 talk to each other regularly.
      = John talks to Fred and Fred talks to John.
John and Fred regularly talk to themselves.
      = John talks to himself and Fred talks to himself.

Reciprocal pronouns 2

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Submitted by mastefani on Tue, 05/07/2016 - 15:56

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Hi Peter, Could you explain a little more about each other and one another ? If traditionally, each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people, but this distinction is disappearing in modern English, how I know when I use one of them? Thank you.

Hello mastefani,

This means that you can use either 'each other' or 'one another' indistinctly. In other words, since they have become two different ways of saying the same thing, you can use whichever one you like. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LuckyBC on Fri, 01/07/2016 - 10:28

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Hi, I'm trying to make the sentence from the grammar: "Lines are adjacent to each other." Does it mean that is "A line is adjacent to a line" ?

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/07/2016 - 11:49

In reply to by LuckyBC

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Hi LuckyBC,

Those two sentences mean the same thing as far as I can tell, though it really depends on the context. I might say 'Lines are adjacent to other lines', but I don't really know what you want to say here. 

Does that help?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/07/2016 - 11:52

In reply to by LuckyBC

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Hello LuckyBC,

These two sentences seem to mean the same thing, though I might say 'Lines are adjacent to other lines' instead of your second sentence. Does that help?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by The_Unknown on Thu, 30/06/2016 - 02:54

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Sir, Each Other refers to two people and One Another refers to more than two people. But in the above example [ Peter and Mary helped one another ]. Peter and Mary are two persons helped each other. [Peter and Mary helped each other] may be the correct ans? Same case with the [They didn’t look at one another].

Hello The_Unknown,

As the information on the page says, this is a distinction which used to be important but which is disappearing in modern English. The information on LearnEnglish reflects how the language is actually used today, and this is why these examples are given.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Keng41 on Mon, 27/06/2016 - 01:38

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It's not really related to the topic but I was incorrect on item 4, "I gave him a present and he gave me a present. We_____________." I put in "gave each other a present." But when I tried "presents" instead of "a present," it was correct. Can someone explain how this works?

Hello Keng41,

Both 'a present' and 'presents' are correct in this sentence. The key is obviously lacking that alternative but you can give yourself a pat on the back - your answer was correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ihsan69 on Thu, 26/05/2016 - 16:00

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The animals looked at each other | looked at one another. Why it does not score me

Hello ihsan69,

Both of those answers are correct. I've just tried the exercise and it shows both 'looked at each other' and 'looked at one another' as correct. If you press Finish, and then press Show Answers, it shows both of these as correct. Did you perhaps write both answers at the same time in the gap? If so, that's must be the problem – you should only write one correct answer, not all correct answers.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by PaolaPao on Fri, 13/05/2016 - 18:13

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Hi! I don't understand.. the rule says: each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people, and the example: Peter and Mary helped one another....why not each other ?? if it referes two people

Hello PaolaPao,

This is explained above where 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, for the most part, both forms are used without the difference in meaning nowadays.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by naell on Thu, 24/03/2016 - 18:04

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hello all i did get the first one but each other’s and one another’s l didn't get it and one more thing l know that one anothe is use in case if we have more than two people or things is that right ?

Hello naeli,

As the page says, 

Traditionally, each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people

However, note that this distinction is disappearing in modern English.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

l got it. thank you very much indeed peter M

Submitted by jay bee on Mon, 15/02/2016 - 17:50

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Hello there. . One is for your bags,the other is for you. How many noun phrases are In this sentence? Is the word (other)in this sentence classified as a pronoun?

Hello jay bee,

This kind of parsing is not something we deal with on this site - and we also try not to answer questions which we think come from people's homework or tests, and this looks like one of those!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter Thanks for your reply... It isn't what you think it is...it was a question in a recent exam that I've had...and the answers given by the lecturer weren't very convincing...that's why I asked for your help... Thank you :)

Submitted by Ayman Alkaddour on Sat, 30/01/2016 - 11:14

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hello learnenglish.britishcouncil.org staff, Thank you for your pretty and useful job that you are doing here You said: each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people. and the examples are: - peter and Mary helped one another. those are two people, why did not we use each other? - We sent each other Christmas cards. those are more than two people, why didn't we use one another?
Hello, I found the answer for this question in the below question. Thank you, you don't need to answer anymore I got it.

Submitted by rody2011 on Sat, 23/01/2016 - 22:44

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hi Peter and Mary helped one another. why one anther to more than two people then peter and mary helped each ather

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 25/01/2016 - 10:49

In reply to by rody2011

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Hello rody2011,

This is explained in the first paragraph above:

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 no long strictly followed, and is disappearing.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SPM on Fri, 15/01/2016 - 03:03

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Hello! why my sentence "we give each other a present" is wrong?

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 15/01/2016 - 06:25

In reply to by SPM

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Hello SPM,

You are talking about more than one present here, so you should say 'presents' not 'present'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 15/01/2016 - 06:27

In reply to by SPM

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Hello SPM,

You are talking about more than one present here, so you should say 'presents' not 'present'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zia9206314 on Thu, 31/12/2015 - 20:05

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Hi thanks a lot for your support for this nice website. In the second test of the excersise: Romeo loved Juliet and Juliet loved Romeo. Romeo and Juliet loved ------ I think each other is better,!!! Please clear it for me to understand it.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/01/2016 - 20:03

In reply to by zia9206314

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Hello zia,

As is explained above, both forms are generally considered correct nowadays. If you prefer one form over the other, by all means use it!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rashmi_Choubey on Sat, 19/12/2015 - 13:29

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Peter and Mary helped one another Can we write it as Peter and Mary helped "each" other ???

Hello Rashmi_Choubey,

The answer to this is on the page above:

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

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khuong Nhi on Sat, 28/11/2015 - 16:15

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Dear sir, I have a question for your exercise. As your grammar, in modern English, each other and one another are the same. So I think the possesive forms are the same too. But in question number 6, my answer "My brother and I used to borrow one another's clothes" is incorrect. Can you explain to me? Thank you very much.

Hello Khuong Nhi,

Your answer was correct – it was our game that was wrong. I've now fixed this, so if you try again, you should see your answer as correct.

Thank you very much for telling us about this!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by KimToi on Tue, 22/09/2015 - 11:15

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Dear Sir! I have a consider with your lesson about reciprocal pronouns: each other and one another. As your grammar, each other refers to two people but in your example: Peter and Mary helped one another =Peter helped Mary and Mary helped Peter. Perter and Mary are two people, so why dont we use each other for this example? it is the same with below example, Is there a opposittionbetween the grammar and the examples?

Hello KimToi,

The examples in the explanation above are examples of how 'each other' and 'one another' are used currently, not how they were traditionally used. As is explained above, both forms are used for two or more people nowadays.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by John Murray on Fri, 18/09/2015 - 16:45

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Hi, Your material is very valuable, thanks. Why do you say 'You and Jack didn't talk to each other' is correct while '.....did not talk.....' is incorrect!?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 19/09/2015 - 13:15

In reply to by John Murray

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Hi John Murray,

Both 'didn't' and 'did not' are correct here. I have added 'did not' to the correct answers.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DoctorHiStreet on Tue, 11/08/2015 - 05:46

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It's great. How can I download this learning resource?

Hello DoctorHiStreet,

It's nice to hear you like the material. I'm afraid the interactive exercises are not downloadable, but other material on this site is, such as pdf versions of exercises, transcripts and audio files.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sabago on Sun, 02/08/2015 - 09:48

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hi "They [five members] looked each other." means [1] In the five members group each member looked the remaining four members. or [2] In a five member group each member looked only one member. which one is correct ? can you give the sentences for both ways?

Submitted by AdamJK on Mon, 03/08/2015 - 00:49

In reply to by sabago

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Hi Sabago, I would say that [1] is the most likely meaning. Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Githuga on Sun, 12/07/2015 - 08:28

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Reciprocal pronouns: each other and one another is really interesting

Submitted by Arshid Manj on Sat, 11/07/2015 - 14:45

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Respected Sir, Question # 3. My answer is "You and Jack did not talk to each other" but when I click on the "Check Answer" button it says the answer is incorrect. Please, tell me what the right answer is then.

Hello Arshid,

If you click on the Submit button, it will show you the correct answers.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by ahmad.y.alali on Sat, 04/07/2015 - 03:44

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Dear sir\madam I do feel grateful for your help and I would like to say that I couldn't solve one of previously question. please tell me the right answer. the question is: "Complete the second sentence so that it means the same as the first sentence. Use 'each other' or 'one another'." 4. I gave him a present and he gave me a present. and I wrote: "We gave each other a present" where is the fault? With y best regards Ahmad Alali.

Hello ahmad.y.alali,

The problem here is the word 'present'. This should be plural as there were two different present being exchanged. That said, I think many people in everyday conversation would say 'a present', so your sentence sounds quite natural even if 'presents' would strictly be the correct word.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Cesar98 on Sat, 16/05/2015 - 11:45

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Hi, Is "We gave each other presents" and "We gave each other a present" different? Cesar

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 17/05/2015 - 13:55

In reply to by Cesar98

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Hi Cesar98,

The first sentence could refer to multiple presents - we gave each other ten presents, for example. Other than that, there is no difference.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khimaaru on Tue, 21/04/2015 - 16:30

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Hello everyone!! I am a newbie. I am glad I found this website. By the way, I am always confused about how to say the phrase: "This past few days or these past few days?" Thank you :)