Reciprocal pronouns

Learn about the pronouns each other and one another and do the exercises to practise using them.

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

If you expand this quote, you get better context; "A troop of newly arrived students, very young, pink and callow, followed nervously, rather abjectly, at the Director's heels. Each of them [each student] carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he [each student] desperately scribbled." Considering that 'Brave New World was published in 1934, the students Huxley is referring to are most likely all men. The subject of the sentence is 'Each' which is singular. If we use a personal pronoun instead of "male student," and remember that it should agree with the singular indefinite pronoun 'each,' then 'he' in this sentence refers to each male student, and each student is scribbling. Since political correctness wasn't an issue back then, the accepted singular personal pronoun used to restate 'each' would have been 'he,' even if it were a group of men and women. 'She' would have only been used if it were a group composed entirely of women. In more modern times, we have started to use the plural pronoun 'they' as a singular personal pronoun to avoid being sexist or as an alternative to needing to write 'he/she' or alternating the use of both feminine and masculine personal pronouns. This sentence by Huxley is perfectly grammatically correct, but you must also realize that the book was written almost 100 years ago and that the English language has changed in that time.

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

Can you tell me which sentence is correct ? " i asked them we should look after our garden one another’s. or i asked them we should look after one another’s garden

Hello g-ssan,

The second one is more correct, though I think the word 'if' is missing after 'I asked them'.

All the best,
Kirk
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:
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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.
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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 ^_^
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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.
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Soumis par Peter M. le mar 08/05/2018 - 07:57

En réponse à par hoamuoigio

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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