Difference Between Each Other And One Another
What is the difference between the phrases ‘each other’ and ‘one another’? Both of these phrases are used when two or more people do the same thing. They mean the same thing and usage is the same, but usually speakers use one or the other in certain circumstances.
‘Each other’ and ‘one another’ are both pronouns. They are considered reciprocal pronouns, which means it shows action in both directions, to the person and from the person. Because of this, they are never used as the subject of a clause. For example: The two friends saw each other. Both of the phrases are used to refer to two or more people or things that are doing something together or are in a relationship together with one or more members of the group.
They are also considered fixed expressions. This means that the ‘each’ is always used with ‘other’ and ‘one’ is always used with ‘another’. Together these word combinations have a specific meaning and can’t be expressed any other way. This is something native speakers learn as a group of words, like an idiom or a collocation. It is as if the expression functions as its own word and is just a way people express certain situations.
Usually though, ‘each other’ is commonly used when referring to simply two people. For example: The two friends were happy when they saw each other last week. Conversely, ‘one another’ is used with more than two people. For example: The group of friends were happy to see each other last week. Although this has traditionally been the case with English, it must be noted that it is becoming more common to use these expressions interchangeably. For example: The two friends were happy when they saw one another last week. The group of friends were happy to see each other.
While it may be safe to use the rule of ‘each other’ with two people and ‘one another’ with a group of three or more, keep in mind that it is not always observed by native English speakers. In many cases, it is fine to use either of these phrases in either situation. However it should be noted that generally speaking, ‘each other’ is more common by native English speakers than ‘one another’. So when deciding to use ‘each other’ or ‘one another’ to show a reciprocal, or give and take, relationship between two or more people or things, it usually does not matter which is used, especially in a casual situation. However in a more formal situation, the amount of people should dictate which expression is used.
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