Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Possible Duplicate:
When should I use “each other” vs. “one another”?

It occurred to me recently that I've been using these phrases interchangeably (basing my decision purely on how formal I want to sound). Are they really interchangeable?

What's the appropriate usage in:

"Human beings often fail to understand what's most important to [_]..."

Is it "one another", "each other", either, or neither?

share|improve this question
    
@MetaEd: Given that OP considers the third possibility "neither", I don't think this is a dup of that straightforward either/or. –  FumbleFingers Jan 16 '12 at 23:49
add comment

marked as duplicate by MετάEd, Marthaª, jwpat7, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, Will Hunting Jan 17 '12 at 9:49

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

2 Answers

The standard rule is:

  1. Use "each other" to refer to two entities that are exchanging something.

  2. Prefer "one another" when there are three or more in question.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Neither usage is appropriate. Without context, I have no idea what this "most important" thing is (perhaps, as the statement implies, simply because I'm a human being).

It would be perfectly reasonable to end the sentence at the word "important". Semantically (but not stylistically) it could reasonably end with "to human beings" as far as I'm concerned, but someone else might say it should end with "to God's plan", "to world peace" or just about anything the writer thinks is important, but which he thinks others don't "get".

EDIT: Thanks to @RegDwight for pointing out an obvious interpretation of what's most important that I simply failed to spot. If what a person (i.e. - people in general) fails to understand is what's important to another person or to other people, the form should be...

Human beings often fail to understand what's most important to others.

share|improve this answer
    
I think what the OP is trying to say is that humans fail to understand what's important to other humans. Mutual misunderstanding, so to speak. –  RegDwigнt Jan 16 '12 at 23:56
    
@RegDwight: oic. I never thought of it that way. I'd better edit to reflect, ty. –  FumbleFingers Jan 17 '12 at 0:09
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.