When we want to express a reciprocal relationship between two things, should we write eachother as one word or each other as two words?
Plenty of American English speakers ask this question, including many who grew up with the language. Fortunately, this area of grammar is rather simple to sort out.
The short answer is that each other (two separate words) is correct. We’ll here consider why confusion about the correct phrasing might still sometimes remain.
Why It’s Easy to Misunderstand Each Other
We suspect two reasons why one might think of each other as being a single word. The first reason is that native American English speakers tend to pronounce the two words quickly. Try reading this sentence aloud: “Paul and Jane got married because they love each other very much.” Did you notice how easy it can be to blend each and other into something that sounds like one word?
The second reason for confusion concerns the fact that other English words can be combined (e.g., any and body into anybody). Given that most of us say “each other” with the same speed and fluidity, we can understand how we might fuse them into a single word.
How to Use Each Other Correctly
Now that we’ve covered why we might mistakenly treat each other as one word, let’s look at how we can remember they are two words.
One technique is to simply think about the phrase itself. You can’t have each of a single thing. For instance, if you were selecting one loaf of bread, you could not say you would like to have each one.
Similarly, you cannot have an other if you don’t have a first item to count and compare. In our bread example, if you have only one loaf, you can’t decide to have the other one (it is not present).
Another approach is to recast your phrasing to include the word the. Instead of writing “Lana and Christy are fond of each other, write “Lana and Christy are each fond of the other.” The latter phrasing is wordy and even stilted, so we don’t recommend writing this way, but it can serve as a tool in helping us remember the separation between each and other.
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