When two or more people are doing the same thing and receiving the consequences of that action at the same time we use reciprocal pronouns.

"Reciprocal Pronouns" in English Grammar

What Are Reciprocal Pronouns?

'Reciprocal' means a mutual action or relationship between two or more participants. A reciprocal pronoun is a type of pronoun used to refer to two or more people or things who are carrying out an action or actions in a mutual manner. Reciprocal pronouns are used to indicate that the action is being performed by both parties involved.

English Reciprocal Pronouns

There are two reciprocal pronouns in English. We will discuss their differences later in this article.

Why and When Do We Use Reciprocal Pronouns?

Reciprocal pronouns are used to avoid repetition in a sentence where two or more people perform the same action, making the sentence more concise.

  • They are used when there are two or more participants or subjects, such as people, things, or groups, in a sentence. So, a reciprocal pronoun cannot be used when the subject is singular.
  • The subjects must be engaged in a reciprocal relationship or perform the same action.

Pay attention to the examples:

Sarah and I will meet each other tomorrow.

This sentence shows that tomorrow Sarah is going to meet me and I'm going to meet her. So, it's a reciprocal or mutual action.

Joey and Chandler love one another.

We shouldn't lie to one another.

When there are two people involved in the action, this sentence means I shouldn't lie to you and you shouldn't lie to me. But if there are more than two people involved, it means no one in the group should lie to others.

The kids are hitting each other.

Everyone in the group hated each other.

Here, the subject is an indefinite pronoun which refers to all members of the group and the fact that every member hates the other members.


As mentioned before, reciprocal pronouns show a mutual relationship. Therefore, they are always used in sentences where the subject is plural. Accordingly, using them in a sentence with a singular subject is grammatically incorrect. Take a look at this example:

I help each other.

The correct sentence would be 'we help each other.'

Each other vs. One another

Generally, there is no major difference between 'each other' and 'one another' and they can often be used interchangeably. However, 'one another' is considered slightly more formal. As a result, 'each other' is more commonly used in everyday speech and writing. Consider the following examples:

We meet each other every weekend.

We meet one another every weekend.

Both examples have the same meaning. But this sentence is slightly more formal.


According to some strict grammarians, 'each other' should be used when referring to two subjects involved in an action or relationship, while 'one another' should be used when referring to more than two people.

The Possessive Form of Reciprocal Pronouns

Using the Possessive Form of the Reciprocal Pronoun 'Each Other'

Reciprocal pronouns in the possessive form are treated as singular, and -'s is added to the end. Neither 'each other' nor 'one another' can take the plural possessive form, as both refer to individuals within a pair or a group. Pay attention to the examples:

We helped to take care of each other's dogs.

We cannot say 'We helped take care of each others' dogs'

They often had their meetings in one another's houses.

Not "one anothers' houses"

Reciprocal Pronouns as Subjects

We cannot use 'each other' or 'one another' as the subject of a sentence or clause. So, the following sentences are incorrect:

She and I think each other are smart.

Roger and Suzy believe each other are guilty.

To correct the above sentences, the best alternative is to use the 'split reciprocal' structure.

She and I each think the other is smart.

It means she thinks I am smart and I think she is smart.

Roger and Suzy each believe the other is guilty.

Roger thinks Suzy is guilty and Suzy thinks Roger is guilty.

Reflexive Pronouns vs. Reciprocal Pronouns

Reciprocal and reflexive pronouns both indicate a relationship between the subject and object of a sentence, but there is a distinction between them:

Reflexive pronouns indicate that the subject and object are the same, while reciprocal pronouns refer to a mutual relationship between two or more subjects and objects, which is not necessarily direct.

Take a look at the examples:

Maria and Melany helped each other.

In this sentence a reciprocal pronoun is used. And it means Maria helped Melany and Melany helped Maria.

Maria and Melany helped themselves.

The reflexive pronoun used in this sentence is plural. It means Maria helped herself and Melany also helped herself.


Reciprocal pronouns indicate a mutual relationship between participants. Note that:

  • They cannot be used as the subjects of the sentences.
  • They can be possessive reciprocals by adding 's to them.

Reciprocal Pronouns

each other They are having lunch with each other.
one another All of them were insulting one another.


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