What are Reciprocal Pronouns?
A reciprocal pronoun is a pronoun which is used to indicate that two or more people are carrying out or have carried out an action of some type, with both receiving the benefits or consequences of that action simultaneously. Any time something is done or given in return, reciprocal pronouns are used. The same is true any time mutual action is expressed.
There are only two reciprocal pronouns. Both of them allow you to make sentences simpler. They are especially useful when you need to express the same general idea more than once.
- Each other
- One another
Reciprocal pronouns are easy to use. When you want to refer to two people, you will normally use “each other.” When referring to more than two people, for example the students in a lecture hall, you will normally use “one another.”
We use the reciprocal pronouns each other and one another when two or more people do the same thing. Traditionally, each other refers to two people and one another refers to more than two people, but this distinction is disappearing in modern English.
- Peter and Mary helped one another.
= Peter helped Mary and Mary helped Peter.
- We sent each other Christmas cards.
= We sent them a Christmas card and they sent us a Christmas card.
- They didn’t look at one another.
= He didn't look at her and she didn't look at him.
We also use the possessive forms each other’s and one another’s:
They helped to look after each other’s children.
We often stayed in one another’s houses.
NOTE: We do not use reciprocal pronouns as the subject of a clause.
Examples of Reciprocal Pronouns
Reciprocal pronouns help prevent repetition within sentences. In the following examples, reciprocal pronouns have been italicized for ease of identification.
- Maria and Juan gave each other gold rings on their wedding day.
- Maria and Juan kissed each other at the end of the ceremony.
- Terry and Jack were talking to each other in the hallway.
- We give each other gifts during the holidays.
- The students congratulated one another after giving practice speeches.
- The kids spent the afternoon kicking the ball to one another.
- The defendants blamed one another for the crime they were charged with.