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I have seen a statement:

  • We have a Christian duty to serve each other.

Is this statement correct?

Because 'each other' is used for two persons and 'one another' for more than two persons.

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    It’s grammatical. Whether it is correct depends on the intention of the speaker etc.
    – Lawrence
    May 20, 2020 at 4:42
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    Does this answer your question? "Each other" vs. "one another". saying "Because 'each other' is used for two persons and 'one another' for more than two persons." is prejudging the issue. It's a statement that needs a supporting reference, linked and attributed. And many consider it untrue. May 20, 2020 at 13:59

4 Answers 4

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"We have a christian duty to serve each other. Is this statement correct**?** Because each other is used for two persons and one another for more than two persons.

This seems to be an invented "rule" that has no basis in fact.

The OED gives "each other" as synonymous with "one another" and remarks:

each other pron. used as a reciprocal pronoun (as object and in the genitive) = one another. … Some commentators on usage restrict each other to two parties and one another to more than two, but such a distinction is seldom found in actual use.

My emphasis

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This seems linked to the concept of "clusivity", which is missing from English.

Broadly speaking it is the distinction of whether the speaker and/or the addressee are included in the group referred to by "we".

So, if "we" is meant to include the speaker and addressee, "each other" seems appropriate. If "we" is meant to exclude the speaker, the addressee or both, "each other" would be lacking the "other".

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  • So, if "we" is meant to include the speaker and adressee, that's 2 or more in the group. If 'we' is used as a synonym for 'one', or more realistically 'each Christian', that's many. This answer fails to address the question (and unhelpful claim), "Is this statement correct? ... Because 'each other' is used for two persons and 'one another' for more than two persons." /// You probably mean 'So, if "we" is meant to include the speaker and adressee only, ...' A possibility, and then OP's question wouldn't arise. But the 'complete implied set [of all Christians]' reading is more likely. May 20, 2020 at 14:59
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As has already been pointed out by other contributors to this page and the related one, it is debatable whether there is a rule that restricts each other to binary relationships.

However, even if it is assumed, for the sake of argument, that there is such a rule, the quoted sentence can be interpreted in a way that is compatible with it. It is possible that somebody who makes this exhortation about our Christian duty, thinks of each instance of 'serving' as something that will take place between exactly two people, even though the exhortation is addressed to a group ('we') that has a large number of members. Everybody in that large group has the duty to serve others, but one can think of each specific acts of serving as directed at one other person at a time. So interpreted, the exhortation is compatible with the (alleged) rule.

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It's correct in a conversation between two people. When addressing two or more people, use the phrase 'one another'.

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    supporting reference? any argument at all? just your gut feel?
    – DW256
    May 20, 2020 at 14:32
  • This page and the linked one contain a number of arguments against this view. You may have reasons to reject these arguments, but nobody can weigh the strength of these reasons if you don't present them.
    – jsw29
    Nov 29, 2023 at 22:24

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