Each Other’s or Each Others’? Each Other or One Another?

As teachers, we need to help each other out.

Last week’s blog post was about teaching students when to use other, another, and the other. But confusion over these terms might not stop there. How do we form the possessive—is it each other’s or each others’? And should a singular or plural noun follow the possessive form? Should we use each other or one another? Get prepared for all these potential student questions by brushing up on the rules below.

Each Other’s or Each Others’?

This can be confusing for students, because the rule for possessives is usually ’s for singular count and non-count nouns and s’ for plural count nouns (e.g., one teacher’s desk, two teachers’ desks). However, you should point out to students that each other is treated as a singular pronoun and emphasizes two or more separate people. Each other’s is always correct, and each others’ is never correct. Think of it this way: You would say We talked to each other for hours. You would never say We talked to each others for hours.

  • The students marked each other’s papers.
  • They went to each other’s houses last weekend.

Singular or Plural Noun?

Since each other implies that two or more people are involved, the noun that follows is usually a plural noun (if it’s countable). Think of it this way: Let’s review each other’s essays means my essay and your essay; i.e., two essays.

  • My roommate and I always borrow each other’s jackets because we’re the same size.
  • We meet in each other’s offices when we need to discuss important issues.

Note that not all grammarians or style guides agree on this point. As a general rule of thumb, a plural noun is considered more common, while a singular noun is considered more logical. This would be great to discuss with higher-level students, but I wouldn’t recommend confusing lower-level students with it (stick with the rule above for lower levels).

  • We borrowed each other’s jackets. (correct—more common—the two jackets were switched)
  • We borrowed each other’s jacket. (correct—more logical—we each have one jacket)

Each Other or One Another?

The rule that grammar traditionalists follow is to use each other when there are only two people involved and one another for more than two. However, in my opinion, one another is quite formal, so each other can be used casually for more than two people. Also, I’ve heard people use one another for two people in formal situations, not just for more than two people. That’s why I teach my students to use each other no matter how many people are involved, but I do point out that they might see one another in formal writing or speaking.

  • My best friend and I tell each other everything. (two people—casual—100% correct)
  • My best friend and I tell everything to one another. (two people—formal—generally accepted)
  • As teachers, we need to help each other out. (many people—casual—generally accepted)
  • As teachers, we need to help one another out. (many people—formal—100% correct)

Source: The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. section 5.220.

21 comments

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  1. daveywoods@gmail.com'

    David Woods says:

    Jun 13, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Here’s an interesting one:
    “It is our goal to solve each of our client’s problems…”
    How is this properly punctuated? Help! :)

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jun 13, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Good one, David! A plural noun follows the construction “X of the” (e.g., one of the clients, each of the clients, some of the clients, all of the clients), so it would be “each of our clients.” To make a plural noun possessive, we add the apostrophe after the final “s” (i.e., “each of our clients’ problems”). This was a great question because it’s quite different from how “each other’s” works (i.e., “each others’ ” is never correct).

      Reply

  2. jusseglio@juno.com'

    Joe Gunn says:

    Oct 28, 2017 at 1:29 am

    Three prisoners were locked in a cell. When the largest of them finished his food, he immediately ate the others. Too bad. An apostrophe in the right place might have prevented a horrible crime.

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Oct 30, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Ha! This would be great to share in class. Teachers can ask students if they realize how the meaning changes when using others’ (he ate the others’ food) vs. others (he ate the other people). Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

  3. deschner.warner@yahoo.com'

    J says:

    May 30, 2017 at 5:35 am

    Which one is correct? I am asked this often and now I am so confused. We will meet each other at the movies. OR We will meet us at the movies.
    Please help. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      May 30, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      Hi J, thanks for your question. You should never say “We will meet us at the movies.” It is correct to say “We will meet each other at the movies,” but it is more common just to say “We will meet at the movies.” There’s really no need for an object here. If you said “We will meet each other at the movies” you would be emphasizing that there are only two of you and that you are probably meeting for the first time. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  4. Lisa@EncinoMom.com'

    Lisa Keating says:

    Apr 17, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I’m going with “time spent enjoying each other’s company.”

    Reply

  5. Lisa@EncinoMom.com'

    Lisa Keating says:

    Apr 17, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    I’m writing about Mother’s Day (which is a grammatical worm hole of it’s own) and wondering where the apostrophe goes when discussing each others company. My inclination is to write “time spent enjoying each others’ company,” meaning a child or children spending time with their mother(s) to their mutual delight. I’m almost ready to give up on each other and say “time spent enjoying one another’s company,” but that sounds very formal to me. Maybe I should just say, “spend time with your Mom this Mother’s Day!” After all, it is the best gift. lol

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Apr 17, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      Ha! Don’t even get me started on Mother’s Day, Mothers’ Day, or Mothers Day (suffice it to say that Mother’s Day is the agreed-upon choice).

      As for your actual question, “each others’ ” is never the grammatically correct choice, though it is a common mistake. “Each other’s” is correct and the best choice here. I agree that “one another” sounds pretty formal. Rewording is always an option, but I think “time spent enjoying each other’s company” sound just fine. And it is indeed a great gift! :)

      Reply

  6. louisemoreno0913@yahoo.com'

    L says:

    Jun 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Would you say “others perception” or “others’ perception”? Is it with s’ since it’s possessive?

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jun 29, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      “Others’ perception” is correct because it’s possessive. Depending on the context, I would say “others’ perception” if everyone had the same perception, or “others’ perceptions” if people perceived things differently (which is more likely), or “another’s perception” for one person. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  7. roninscholar@gmail.com'

    Steven W Folsom says:

    Jun 02, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    I disagree. If you and I each only own 1 jacket (the each Implies that there are two jackets), I believe it is correct to say “we borrow each other’s jacket.” Just like the aforementioned “each” , “other’s” imlies plurality. On the other hand if you are speaking of a group of people each sharing their own object I find the plural after other’s to be acceptable, e.g. “the class corrected each other’s papers.”

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jun 02, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      This is a great point, Steven, so I’m glad you brought it up. I’ve looked into it some more to see what the best choice is (because to me, both the singular or plural noun sound fine), and I keep finding examples of both cases. Many style guides seem to agree on the following:
      – We borrowed each other’s jackets. (correct, more common)
      – We borrowed each other’s jacket. (correct, more logical)

      I will amend my post to include this. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      Reply

  8. jgleesti@gmail.com'

    Jordan says:

    Apr 04, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    I’m curious to know what the rule is if other is being used in plural possesive form. For example would I write:
    “Because Dean served in World War II, his view of life and freedom is different from others’.”
    or
    “Because Dean served in World War II, his view of life and freedom is different from other’s.”

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Apr 07, 2016 at 10:21 am

      Hi Jordan,

      Yes, you would need a plural possessive form here. “…different from others’ ” is correct because it refers back to “other people’s views.” “…different from other’s” is impossible because that is the singular form. If you wanted to refer to just one person, you could say “different from another’s” but even this is a little strange—you might be better off referring directly to the person (“…different from his neighbor’s,” for example).

      Reply

  9. sasan3008@gmail.com'

    Abbas says:

    Dec 28, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Hi
    Is it correct to write something like this: ” other’s book”?

    Reply

  10. misterspiros@yahoo.ca'

    Spiros Zafiris says:

    Nov 26, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    ..bravo.>keep up the good work.>sp
    ~

    Reply

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