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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Hello Khimaaru,

'this' is used with singular nouns and 'these' is used with plural nouns. 'past few days' is plural and so 'these' is the correct form.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Joong Myn on Wed, 08/04/2015 - 11:03

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Hi there, please help me with this sentence, I'm very very confused with it A: "Jack wasn't at the party last night" B: "No, I wasn't either" The problem is if say "NO", I think it means "he was at the party last night because I was there too) however "I wasn't either" has a opposite meaning with "NO" Thanks!

Hello Joong Myn,

In tis context it's fine to answer in this way. When you say 'No' here you are actually agreeing with what A has said as it was a negative statement; it's not disagreeing.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by msana on Thu, 02/04/2015 - 10:25

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I don't understand why the given examples don't match the explanations, but even more, they are exactly the opposite! I've read some complaints about it and the reply was that you can use both. So what is the sense of all of it? You'd have to say, use both indistinctly, period. If not, give the examples according to the explanations. I think you have to change them, because you are contributing to confusion and you were asked to clarify!

Submitted by newbietrk on Mon, 12/01/2015 - 21:41

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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

Submitted by Gibrastr on Sun, 30/11/2014 - 09:43

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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

Submitted by silveroak on Tue, 25/11/2014 - 18:32

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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

Submitted by hananturland on Fri, 17/10/2014 - 22:54

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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

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 20/10/2014 - 10:53

In reply to by hananturland

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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

Submitted by Hamadmattar on Mon, 06/10/2014 - 15:22

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Since the distinction is disappearing in modern English, Can I always use "each other" ?

Hello Hamadmattar,

Yes. Both are considered interchangeable by modern grammarians. In fact, 'each other' is becoming more common and 'one another' is becoming rarer as time goes by.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Annabui on Mon, 06/10/2014 - 01:55

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Hello, I think there is something wrong in here. Peter and Mary helped one another. => here only 2 people so the sentence should be : => Peter and Mary helped each other. 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. => in this context there are only 2 people so the sentence should be => They didn't look at each other. This sentence is similar with an exercise number 4. if I am wrong, kindly explain. Thanks Anna

Hello Anna,

The first line of the explanation above explains this:

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

Your examples are examples of the distinction disappearing; the distinction is no longer a hard-and-fast rule, but is now only a tendency, and is slowly disappearing altogether.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nendan on Mon, 08/09/2014 - 05:22

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Hello, Is it correct?: We are just about to split the country between each other regards, nendan

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 08/09/2014 - 09:39

In reply to by Nendan

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Hi Nendan,

I would recommend saying 'split the country between us' here. The grammar explained on this page is more for actions that two different parties do to one another, whereas in what you write about, you are splitting a country. In a sense, you are separating from one another, but saying 'split the country between each other' sounds a bit odd (though comprehensible) to me.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mona rafat on Thu, 04/09/2014 - 19:55

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hi if we said "we eat each other s food " is this correct

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 07/09/2014 - 14:21

In reply to by mona rafat

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Hello mona rafat,

The sentence is correct apart from lacking an apostrophe. It should be "We eat each other's food".

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ramyamugesh on Tue, 02/09/2014 - 09:05

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hi could you please check my sentence. we were danced with one another.(we=more than two) thank you

Submitted by AdamJK on Thu, 04/09/2014 - 08:53

In reply to by ramyamugesh

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Hi, Please don't ask the same question more than once. We will answer your question if we have time and asking it twice takes up additional time for us. Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ramyamugesh on Mon, 01/09/2014 - 09:09

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hai could you please check my sentence? we were danced with one another (we=more then two) thank tou

Submitted by AdamJK on Thu, 04/09/2014 - 08:30

In reply to by ramyamugesh

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Hi, Your use of one another is fine, but you need to revise your use of verb forms about the past: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/talking-about-past Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by liselot.lange on Sun, 31/08/2014 - 12:05

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These reciprocal prnouns got me confused. The definitions above the assignment state the following: 'each other refers to two people.' The definition is then followed by this example: 'Peter and Mary helped one another. = Peter helped Mary and Mary helped Peter.' How come the definition and example do not add up? Peter and Mary are two people, so shouldn't it be 'Peter and Mary helped each other?'. And if not, why is this an exception? Thanks in advance!

Submitted by sulavsth on Thu, 21/08/2014 - 10:53

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There is difference in examples and definitions. Why is this??

Submitted by intheskye on Sun, 10/08/2014 - 11:50

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please correct my sentences: 1. There are 3 people coming from 3 countries, they would like to teach one another their languages. 2. There are 3 people coming from 3 countries, they would like to teach one another's languages? which one is correct? thanks
Hello, I would say that the first sentence sounds better than the second one. Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manal481988 on Fri, 18/07/2014 - 20:55

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hello, i have a question about the exercise above: I didn't speak to you, Jack, and you didn't speak to me. We didn't speak to ............... I understand from the rule above that we have to use each other with two people and one another with more than two people, but the right answer of the mentioned question is each other, how is it ?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 19/07/2014 - 07:09

In reply to by manal481988

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Hello mana481988,

The answer is 'each other' because there are two people in the sentence: you and me. 'Jack' and 'you' are the same person. We often use people's names in this way. For example, I could say to you:

This answer is for you, mana481988, and I hope it helps.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by frozan on Sun, 13/07/2014 - 14:22

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Hi Teacher, I read this example of each other and one another , each other and one another used after the past form of verb. I want to say that we can use like this, example Ahmad and sara helping or help each other's . Thanks please help me

Hi frozan,

I'm not sure I understand your question fully.  The past form of the verb has no effect on how we use 'each other'.  The correct sentence would be without an apostrophe:

Ahmad and Sara are helping each other.

or

Ahmad and Sara help each other.

Both verb forms are possible, depending on what you wish to say.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jcakre on Wed, 11/06/2014 - 20:50

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Oops!!! I wrong somewhere! Why??? I was not well concentrated!!!

Submitted by jcakre on Wed, 11/06/2014 - 20:47

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There is something disturbing me. In this sentence: She looked at them and they looked at her. I was thinking that "them" can be taken like a group, so one entity but I was wrong. Therefore, do I have to considere "them" as many people gather together?

Hello jcakre,

them can refer to a group, but, as a plural object pronoun, it is grammatically plural. Some other words that refer to groups, e.g. police or staff, are considered grammatically plural, but they is not one of them.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kathyakie on Sun, 23/03/2014 - 17:24

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They didn’t look at one another. = He didn't look at her and she didn't look at him. hi. the example above is something that i didnt undertand. you used one another for the subject they,but the explanation is composed of two people. is it right that i can use also "they didnt look at each other" thank you

Hi kathyakie,

Yes, that is correct. As is explained above, both each other and one another are now often used to refer to two or more people, i.e. nowadays many speakers use the two phrases in an identical way.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amit D. Chavan on Thu, 20/03/2014 - 06:46

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Hello Here is a sentence like "He wore each other's clothes." can we say like this "He wore clothes of each other's." is this correct or not?

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 21/03/2014 - 10:48

In reply to by Amit D. Chavan

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Hello Amit,

I'm afraid those sentences are not correct.  When we say each other's, we are talking about more than one person, and so we must say 'they' instead of 'he'.

The correct sentence is 'They wore each other's clothes'.

The second version is not correct.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hecav on Sun, 19/01/2014 - 00:11

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Hi Kirt

I have some doubts, according to the first paragraph "each other refers to two people", then, What is the main reason for using "one another" in the Peter and Mary sentence? If we can use "one another to refer more than two people.

Please, help me to understand.

Regards

 

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 19/01/2014 - 11:33

In reply to by hecav

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Hi hecav,

The end of the sentence in the explanation explains this (I have underlined the important part for you):

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

What this means is that both each other and one another can refer to just two, or to three or more, people in modern English - the example with Peter and Mary is an example from modern English.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rahul Singh Rana on Thu, 19/12/2013 - 09:50

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Hello Sir,
Why its "They helped to look after each other’s children." and not "one another's" in place of "each other's"

 

Hi Rahul Singh Rana,

Remember that each other is traditionally used to refer to two people. If we interpret "They helped to look after each other's children" in this way, it could refer, for example, to two parents from two different families.

It's also possible to say "They helped to look after one another's children" as well; traditionally, this referred to three or more people, though nowadays it's often used to refer to only two.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fizazack on Fri, 15/11/2013 - 03:11

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hello! So far I haven't using 'one another'. I normally used 'each other'. After going through this learning, I am confused of using these two words. Why "She looked at them and they looked at her. They looked at.....'each other' is incorrect??" The answer is 'one another'. I thought 'each other' is acceptable.

Hi fizazack,

In the instructions for the exercise, it says to use the forms as they were traditionally used. As is explained at the top of the page, one another is traditionally used when there are more than two people engaged in the reciprocal action.

In "She looked at them and they looked at her", there are at least three people (she and them) - therefore in the exercise one another is the correct answer (due to the instructions asking you to use the traditionally correct form).

But you're right: in everyday speech nowadays, each other is also correct here.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anton Zagoskin on Thu, 10/10/2013 - 10:49

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LOL All will be fine! Practice, practice and one more time practice!

Submitted by ethem on Thu, 20/06/2013 - 17:42

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Hello learn English team I have a problem with the flash player because my device uses iOS so that I can't do exercises. How can I handle it? Additionally, I'm fascinated by your web site. It provide me with easily accessible and trustworthy information. Thanks for your efforts.

I think that you should download flash player in our computer to make exercices .

Have a nice day.