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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Soumis par quickspot le mar 15/12/2020 - 07:20

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Why is this sentence in the singular when it says each of them and then goes on to say ,,,,,,, he. Here is the sentence taken from "Brave New World". Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he desperately scribbled. WHY IS IT he desperately scribbled ?? Thanks quickspot

Hello quickspot,

It's a very strange construction. The 'he' here would appear to refer either to 'the great man' or to another person for whom the people mentioned are carrying the notebooks. I would say that if the scribbling is done by the people carrying the notebooks then 'they' would be a better choice.

 

Obviously, in context the sentence may read differently and there may be other clues which clarify Huxley's intent.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Kunthea le mer 11/11/2020 - 08:20

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Hello teachers, In this sentence 'They helped to look after each other's children.' What does 'They' refer to? Does it mean husband and wife or different family? Ex: The Michaels have two children. And The Richards have three children. Can I say 'They helped to look after each other's children'?

Hello Kunthea,

'They' could refer to several individuals or to groups such as families, depending on the context.

 

Your example is correct. Well done!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par sofiabravo le lun 05/10/2020 - 02:58

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Hi, in the first exercise, in number 4, is it correct if I say "We gave each other a present"? because the answer shown as correct is "We gave each other presents" Thank you c:

Soumis par Kirk le lun 05/10/2020 - 06:55

En réponse à par sofiabravo

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Hello sofiabravo,

That could possibly be correct in an unusual situation, i.e. one where you and the other person both spent money on the same present that you then share together. But otherwise, when you give one present to the other person, and the other person gives a present to you (notice there are two presents), the plural is the correct form.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par H_L le sam 02/05/2020 - 03:25

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Hello, In the first exercise "Reciprocal pronouns 1". Can I say in number 6 " My brother and I used to borrow clothes from each other" it is shown to be incorrect, can you please help me understand why? Thank you.

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 02/05/2020 - 08:13

En réponse à par H_L

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Hello H_L,

Yes, that is correct. The expected answer is '...borrow each other's clothes' but your answer is also fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Tobias Hein le mar 21/01/2020 - 15:10

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Greetings,gentlemen.Would you kindly answer my question abiut usage I am a bit confused.In this sentence,The students should try their best so that they ___ be ready for the exam,should we use will or would in the blank?Also,please check if this sentence makes any sense and correct if it does not,This computer does not hold as few updated applications as that one

Hello Tobias Hein,

There are several possible options. You could use a regular present form ('are') or a modal with future meaning ('will'). 'Would' does not fit here as it suggests an impossible or entirely hypothetical action, not a real possibility.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Tobias Hein le lun 16/12/2019 - 11:18

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Hello,team of English. I have several questions that makes me confused. First,The villagers helped each other/one another in their work.Which pronoun should be use in this sentence?Or can we use both? And if we use after grammar pattern,is it okay if the sentences joined together are not the same subject? Thanks for taking in interest

Hello Tobias,

In the past there was a distinction made between each other and one another, but this is no longer relevant in modern English and the two are used interchangeably. Thus, both forms can be used in your sentence.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'after grammar patter' in your second question. Perhaps you could provide an example, and then we'll be happy to try to answer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Didovido le sam 30/11/2019 - 22:20

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Hello, In the explanation above, there's this example: "They didn't look at each another." I know we can use EACH OTHER or ONE ANOTHER, but here you used EACH anOTHER, is this a typo? Or is it totally right? Thanks ^_^

Soumis par Kirk le dim 01/12/2019 - 08:24

En réponse à par Didovido

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Hello Didovido

Thanks very much for pointing that out to us! You are right, that was not correct -- I'm very sorry if that caused you any confusion.

The error has now been corrected. Thanks again!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par authentic_imaginer le jeu 11/04/2019 - 12:22

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It seem to me there is an inaccuracy on the description. could you check me if functions of both each other and one another is confused. thanks for attention.
Hello authentic_imaginer, The descriptions are correct. Traditionally, the uses are as follows: >> each other - two people >> one another - more than two people I think the examples could be clearer so I have edited them slightly. ~ Please note that, as the page states, this distinction is disappearing and the two forms are used largely interchangeably. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Eugene Yezhov le sam 19/01/2019 - 10:33

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Hello. Is there any difference between "Can anyone lend me a bit of money?" and "Can somone lend me a bit of money?". Thank you.

Hi again Eugene Yezhov

There is a slight difference. If you use 'someone' it can mean that you expect a person to say yes or that you are trying to persuade a person to say yes. 'anyone' is more neutral or factual -- it doesn't indicate anything about the speaker's expectations or wishes. Otherwise they mean the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Momocompanyman le mar 06/11/2018 - 10:32

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Hello Sir, what is the meaning of the verb (met) in this sentence : Last night I (met)my girlfriend's parents and she (met) mine. Best wishes.

Hi medmomo,

'meet' has several different meanings, but here it probably means that it was the first time your parents and girlfriend saw and spoke to each other. It's hard to be sure without knowing the context.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par hoamuoigio le mar 08/05/2018 - 03:34

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Dear sirs, Peter and Marry helped one another. If we concern to grammartical in traditionally, I think we should use EACH OTHER instead of ONE ANOTHER, because there are only two people who are mentioned in here. Is my thinking correct? Thanks.

Hello hoamuoigio,

That is correct. However, as we say on the page above, this is a rule which is disappearing from the language and the two forms are now used interchangeably.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Mohamed Nejah … le lun 19/03/2018 - 18:04

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Peter And marry helped one another, why we don't say each other? All my greats

Hello Mohamed,

You can say 'each other' or 'one another' in the sentence you ask about. As is explained above, traditionally 'each other' was the preferred form for a sentence like this, but nowadays most people don't recognise this difference.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Mohamed Isse le mar 21/11/2017 - 08:39

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Hello Teacher, I confused the usage of each other and one another. for example, which one is right: 1. I love Sagal to each other 2. sagal loved me to each other. also when i want to make possessive, may I use like this: for example; Sagal took to my car each other's or Sagal and I took car to one another's

Hello Issa,

The subject of the verb must be plural ('we', 'you' or 'they') when you use 'each other' or 'one another'. So you could say 'Sagal and I love each other', for example, or 'We love each other'. The possessive form also only makes sense when you are referring to more than one thing or person. For example 'Sagal and I took each other's cars' means Sagal took my car and I took her car.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par karogrig le ven 15/09/2017 - 08:32

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Hello I don't understand clearly the difference between One another / each other / and Each Other's / One another's / Please can you explain me a bit clearly the difference ? Thank you in advance.

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 16/09/2017 - 08:47

En réponse à par karogrig

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Hello karogrig,

There used to be a clear difference between each other and one another, as the page says:

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

However, this distinction is disappearing. In modern English the two forms are generally used interchangeably without any difference in meaning.

 

The forms each other's and one another's are possessive forms. For example:

Bob and John drove each other's cars for a week.

The meaning here is that Bob drove John's car and John drove Bob's car for a week.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Marwa.Mohamed le mar 08/08/2017 - 22:01

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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

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 09/08/2017 - 07:02

En réponse à par Marwa.Mohamed

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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

Soumis par Jorge Rodriguez le dim 19/02/2017 - 19:24

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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

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 20/02/2017 - 07:05

En réponse à par Jorge Rodriguez

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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

Soumis par marwa kassoumeh le ven 30/12/2016 - 20:13

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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 :)

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 31/12/2016 - 09:31

En réponse à par marwa kassoumeh

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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

Soumis par Fatemeh Roostaei le ven 16/12/2016 - 19:53

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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

Soumis par taj25 le mer 23/11/2016 - 11:11

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They didn’t look at one another. i have questioned above the word. my question is why u using "at" preposition that area. actually it will use "at" preposition for place. there is no mention place. i worrying about that. pls clarify.

Hello taj25,

We use 'at' to describe place but we can use it in other ways too. For example, we can use it to express time ('at six o'clock'), price ('three shares at $100 each') and direction ('I threw the ball at him').

Your example, I would say, is similar to the last of these: the preposition 'at' shows the direction of the looking.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par fahri le mer 09/11/2016 - 14:47

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Hallo dear team, He didn't look at her and she didn't look at him. Is this sentence right without preposition “at”? He didn't look her and she didn't look him. We are going to patient waiting for your answer sir. We are know that you have a thousand of duty

Hello fahri,

No, those sentences are not correct without 'at'. 

Thanks for your understanding.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par naaka le jeu 29/09/2016 - 14:15

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Hello British Council team, 'I can exchange information with (the) other learners' In this sentence I just want to know about the word 'THE'. Is this sentence correct with 'the' or without the'? I'm very much appreciate your your help with teaching English

Hello again naaka,

Both sentences are correct; which one is correct depends on what you mean. Using 'the' would mean that you assume that the reader knows which other learners you're speaking about, whereas omitting 'the' would indicate the opposite. See our Articles 1 page for more.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par elakkiyarun le lun 11/07/2016 - 14:58

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'each other' refers to two people and 'one another' refers to more than two people. In the example sentence, there are only two people but you have used one another Peter and Mary helped one another, can you please explain. Thanks in advance.