Hello! This week we answer a question from Umut in Turkey.
I would like to learn the difference between "each other" and "one another." Thanks in advance.
Thank you for writing to us. The pronoun “each other” means that every member of a group of people or animals does something for or to the other members of the group. Imagine you see two neighbors passing on the street. As they pass, they wave and say, “Hello!” You could say:
Carlos waved at Ishmael.
Ishmael waved at Carlos.
But that is not the easy way to talk about what you see. Instead, you can say:
Carlos and Ishmael waved at each other.
Let us take a look at more examples of how we use it.
I heard the cats fighting with each other last night.
The teacher asked students to help each other in their groups.
In some cases, you can make a possessive pronoun from “each other” by adding an apostrophe and the letter “s.”
The children walked two by two, holding each other’s hands.
At Christmas, the family gets together and opens each other’s gifts.
You asked us to compare how we use the expression “one another.” I read in one dictionary that some English speakers use “one another” when talking about three or more members of a group, while using “each other” when talking about just two members of a group. If that is the case, then you would find statements like this:
The baseball players all shook hands with one another after the game.
Andy and Reyna are always joking with each other.
But I do not think that many of us follow that rule. Instead, we use “one another” in careful or polite speech or writing and “each other” in more casual speech.
What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at email@example.com
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
polite –adj. having or showing good manners or respect for other people
casual –adj. not formal; done without much thought or effort
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