Each Other vs. One Another

November 24th, 2022 in Grammar by April Michelle Davis 0

How can you determine whether to use “each other” or “one another”? Consider the number of things to which you are referring.

“Each other” is a reciprocal pronoun, meaning that it shows two-directional action. For example, “Nancy and Tom are nice to each other” means that Nancy is nice to Tom and Tom is nice to Nancy.

“One another” is also a reciprocal pronoun. Use one another when you are referring to more than two people. For example, if Nancy and Tom want all of their friends to be nice, they should say, “Be nice to one another.”

Despite these rules, “each other” and “one another” are often interchanged. Shakespeare used “one another” to refer to only two people. Some grammarians today believe these reciprocal nouns should be interchangeable. Fowler’s Modern English Usage is one source that so believes. The Grammar Bible and Garner’s Modern American Usage, however, believe in the two-definition approach. The Associated Press Stylebook follows the two-definition approach as well but includes one exception: when referring to an indefinite number, use either one. For example, “We love each other” and “We love one another” would both be correct. Because there are varying points of view on these rules, refer to the style guide you use to determine what is correct for your writing.

Whichever side of the discussion you fall on, be sure you don’t use “each other” or “one another” as the subject of a clause; it makes the sentence awkward. Instead, use the split reciprocal and say “Nancy and Tom each think the other is nice” as opposed to the awkward “Nancy and Tom think each other are nice.”


Try It!

Determine which reciprocal pronoun should be used.

  1. The boys were told to play with each other / one another until dinner time.
  2. Marissa and Amanda are always generous to each other / one another around the holidays.

    3. My mother always told me and my siblings to be courteous to each other / one another.


  1. either is correct because “boys” could mean two or more than two, so the number is indefinite

    2. each other

    3. one another