Reciprocal Pronouns and Reflexive Pronouns

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What is a Reciprocal Pronoun?

Reciprocal pronouns are used to speak of two or more than two persons, who were or are the subject of the same verb, where all the individuals in the discussion are reciprocally getting or benefiting from the particular act in the same manner. Reciprocal pronouns at all times serve as the objects of the verbs, mentioning back to two or more than two people who are or were the subject(s).

In the English language, the two reciprocal pronouns are ‘each other’ and ‘one another.’ Traditionally speaking, each other is used for only two people, both of whom are engaged in performing a similar action, whereas one another is used where more than two people are involved in performing a similar work. Though in the modern English, this rule is not necessarily applicable, and both ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ can be used interchangeably.

What is a Reflexive Pronoun?

Reflexive pronouns are used to refer a situation where both the subject and the object of the same verb is a single person or thing, which means that a single person or thing is performing the action and at the same time is the recipient of that action. In such situations, reflexive pronouns are used in place of the object of the verb to indicate that the same individual or thing is the subject of the phrase.

For instance, “She heard herself speaking,” here the speaker (She) is the subject of the verb and its object (what was heard), and therefore she is symbolized by the reflexive pronoun ‘herself.’

For a better understanding of the concept, let’s take another example, ‘He heard her speaking.’ In this sentence, ‘he’ is the subject, while ‘she’ is the object, and they are two different persons, so no reflexive pronoun has been used here.

Similarly, “I’ll be certain to thank herself” is not correct: ‘her’ should be the object of the sentence, as ‘I’ is the subject here.

Reciprocal Pronouns vs. Reflexive Pronouns

Sometimes, when the subjects of a sentence are also used as the object of the same verb, it appears to be reasonable to use reflexive pronouns to exemplify them, for example;

  • “We see ourselves

But, in fact, this usage is incorrect because reflexive pronouns are used to describe ‘unilateral’ actions. Therefore; saying ‘we see ourselves daily’ means every single person is seeing her or himself discretely, that is A is seeing A and B is seeing B daily.

Since a reciprocal action of the verb is being described (meaning the act is conjointly shared among the parties involved), therefore a reciprocal pronoun is used. The correct form would be:

“We see each other every day.” OR “We see one another every day.”

The above statement implies that the first person sees the other person every day and the second person sees the first person every day.

Using each other vs. one another

As discussed above that both each other and one another can be used to signify reciprocal action between two characters or more than two people who are conversing in groups—it entirely influenced by the background context. Suppose, if we have been speaking about two people’ say, Carol and Susan, we say ‘they like one another,’ which makes it evident that the action here is limited between Carol and Susan. Similarly, if we talk about a family and then comment that ‘they like each other,’ it implies that the act is reciprocated among all the members of that group.

While customary and conservative grammarians advocate that ‘each other’ can only be used for two people and ‘one another’ can only be used for more than two individuals, this parameter is not constructed on ancient or semantic confirmation; the two are substitutable.

Each other’s and One another’s

To make reciprocal pronouns look possessive, you can add ‘’s’ at the end of ‘each other’ and ‘one another.’ Both ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ are used to refer the individuals only whether in a pair or a group. Therefore they cannot be used in plural forms.

Nonetheless, when you talk about the things belonging to two or more than two individuals, the possessive forms preceded by their nouns usually take the plural form. For instance;

Ronald and I spent a lot of time studying at each other’s house during exams, OR

The team members were sent together to evaluate one another’s performance sheets.

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