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What Are Reciprocal Pronouns? (with Examples)

What Are Reciprocal Pronouns? (with Examples)

A reciprocal pronoun expresses a mutual action or relationship. In English, the reciprocal pronouns are:
  • Each other
  • One another

Examples of Reciprocal Pronouns

Here are some examples of reciprocal pronouns:
  • Jack and Jill hate each other.
  • (Note: Jack hates Jill, and Jill hates Jack. The action is reciprocated.)
  • The crayfish started attacking one another.
  • The team members played their hearts out for one another.
  • They gave each other presents.
  • Have you seen each other's solution?
  • (Note: Each other is treated as singular. Therefore, the possessive apostrophe is placed before the s.)
  • The competitors were deliberately blocking one another's view to gain an advantage.
  • (Note: One another is treated as singular. Therefore, the possessive apostrophe is placed before the s.)

Each Other or One Another?

Here's the quick answer: If the antecedent is two things, use each other. If it's more than two, use one another.

Here's a longer explanation:

A reciprocal pronoun is used when at least one thing reciprocates another's action (i.e., does the same thing back). As a result, the antecedent of a reciprocal pronoun (i.e., what it refers back to) is always something plural. For example:
  • Our dog and cat love each other.
  • (Here, the antecedent of each other is our dog and cat, which is plural.)
  • They love each other.
  • (Here, the antecedent of each other is they, which is plural. In this example, they refers to our dog and cat.)
When the antecedent is two things (like in both examples above), use each other as the reciprocal pronoun. However, when the antecedent is three or more things, use one another.

Look at these examples:
  • Our two dogs and your cat love one another.
  • (Here, the antecedent of one another is our two dogs and your cat, which is three things.)
  • They love one another.
  • (Here, the antecedent of one another is they, which we know represents three things.)
Note: If your readers pull you up for using the wrong reciprocal pronoun, then you have some world-class grammar pedants on your hands.

Each Other's Not Each Others'

The pronouns each other and one another are singular entities (despite having plural antecedents). Therefore, when showing possession, the apostrophe comes before the s. This is a 100% rule.
  • Do you two admire each other's courage?
  • (Note: Each other is treated as singular. Therefore, the possessive apostrophe is placed before the s.)
  • Do you three admire one another's courage?
  • (Note: One another is treated as singular. Therefore, the possessive apostrophe is placed before the s.)
Interactive Test
 
 


Note: The sentences used in this test are genuine quotes. You will notice that a couple do not follow the rule for using each other and one another. This rule is so badly observed, many do not consider it a rule at all.