Each Other vs One Another
In English language, there are reciprocal pronouns that are used to talk about feelings that are reciprocated. Two such pronouns are each other and one another. There are many similarities in these two reciprocal pronouns making it difficult for those learning English to use them properly in written and spoken English. This article attempts to highlight their differences to enable readers to use these reciprocal pronouns in a correct manner.
Why is ‘each other’ a reciprocal pronoun? Because in the sentence where this pronoun is used we can see an action reciprocated by all those who are being referred to. If John behaves in a nice manner with Helen, and Helen behaves in a nice manner with John, it is said that John and Helen behave in a nice manner to each other. Here, we can see the same behavior being reciprocated by the two participants. Take a look at the following examples.
• Bill and Charles were quarrelling when they suddenly hit each other.
• The two movie stars looked at each other but avoided any handshake.
If the teacher of a class asks the students to say hello to one another, it simply means that she expects all students to reciprocate this behavior. This is another reciprocal pronoun where the same action, feeling, or behavior is expected or is actually reciprocated, but the number of persons is more than two. Here are a few examples.
• All students sent greeting cards to one another.
• The three winners congratulated one another on the podium.
What is the difference between Each Other and One Another?
Both ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ are reciprocal pronouns indicating reciprocity of action, feeling, or behavior, but the difference lies in the fact that each other is used in a sentence with two subjects whereas one another is used in the context of several people. However, this is not a constraint anymore, and any other is increasingly being used in situations where only two people are involved. There have been attempts to sideline one of these two reciprocal pronouns as they mean the same thing. However, one can use either of the two without being grammatically incorrect.