QUESTION #13 - USING RECIPROCAL PRONOUNS
Date: [this is an updated old posting, previous to LSEG4 edition]
" . . . I am from India, and I teach English to students preparing for various entrance
I want to know whether 'each other' and 'one another' can be used interchangeably, particularly when we are talking about categories
under which there are sub-categories. For example:
'Futures and options are similar to one another'--is this correct?
Please help ."
From LT - INDIA
A13. The question submitted is interesting because it highlights a few collateral grammatical aspects which are frequent
instances in our daily activity. Now, before anything else, "each other" and "one another" are not interchangeable.
"Each other" refers to groups/series of two persons/elements, and "one another" is used only when the groups/series contain more
than two persons/elements.
Secondly, you should note that the meaning of the sentence submitted to us is terribly confusing.
Before starting any grammatical
analysis, we need to analyze the meaning first; therefore, the meaning must be (made) perfect/complete. In this particular instance,
the noun "futures" does not exist. "Future" is a unique noun having only the singular form, similar to "past" or "present".
We wrote back to LT protesting that the meaning of his sentence was absurd--it made no sense to us. His reply was:
" . . . about futures and options--these terms are from finance."
Aha! Now things are clear, therefore we can start our grammatical analysis.
There are countless examples in our day to day life when people use specialty or little known words: financial, legal, technical, or
colloquial. English grammar allows us to do that, but only when the meaning is made perfect/complete. That means, we have to mark
all specialty/(little known) words appropriately, using punctuation. For example:
"Futures" and "options" are similar to one another.
Although it is obvious now that the words "futures" and "options" refer to something else, the meaning is still a bit confusing. The
reciprocal pronoun "one another" is marked in red, because we are not quite done with it.
This is a frequent practice in our day to day life, therefore we would like to emphasize grammatical rules again:
little known, or custom words must be marked by quotes. If it is possible, it is a very good idea to detail/explain
specialty, little known, or custom terms. For example:
The "futures" plan and the "options" one
are similar to each other.
Note that the reciprocal pronouns "each other" and "one another" are particular forms of reflexive pronouns: this time the action is
reflected/redirected on another member of the group, not back on the subject. In LSEG4 it says:
". . . reciprocal pronouns are used personally, and impersonally--when it makes sense."
Reciprocal pronouns are used to explain that the action is redirected to/on another member of the group/series. In our particular
example there is no action performed; we have only a comparison of two static states. Therefore, using any reciprocal
pronouns in this instance is an error. The sentence should be something similar to:
The "futures" (plan) and the "options" (one) are similar.
This is a clear example of uncontrolled meaning in English. Unfortunately, we hear more and more often expressions similar to the
one submitted for analysis, and they are motivated as being "specialty" or whatever. There is no such thing, dear readers.
Regardless of the domain we work in [say, medical or nuclear physics]
ANY MEANING HAS TO BE MADE PERFECT/COMPLETE. English
grammar allows us to express any logic meaning correctly; therefore, let's do that, dear friends.
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