Distributive and Reciprocal Pronouns

What are Distributive Pronouns ?

Distributive Pronouns - they refer to persons or things one at a time, i.e. considers the things/persons in a group individually.

That’s why they are always singular and are followed by a singular verb.

E.g. each, either, neither (neither is the negative of either).

Each of us will get an award.
Either of us may go to jail.
Neither of them will qualify.

In the above sentences, each, either, neither are the subject. But they can function as an object too. Consider the following example.

“Which paint do you like, the yellow one or the violet one?” I don’t like either. (either - pronoun working as object)

Some other distributive pronouns are: any, no one, none

If each, either, neither function as a subject or object in a sentence, then they are distributive pronouns.

However, these words (i.e. each, either, neither etc.) can also function as adjectives, when they modify a noun/pronoun. Then we call them distributive adjectives.

Each of the boys should be rewarded. (Each - distributive pronoun, working as the subject)
Each boy should be rewarded. (Each - distributive adjective, modifying the noun ‘boy’)

Also note that:

  • Either, neither and each can function as adverbs too.
  • Either…or and neither…nor can function as conjunctions too.

We have covered either/neither and each in much more detail in separate articles dedicated to them.

Properties of Distributive Pronouns

Concept 1: Distributive Pronouns with ‘of’

Plural Noun/Pronoun is used after ‘each of/either of/neither of’.

Pattern: Either/Neither/Each + of + Plural Noun/Pronoun + Singular verb

Each of the boys has a note book. (boys – plural noun; has – singular verb)
Each of them is curious. (them – plural pronoun; is – singular verb)

Either of you can go and fetch the duster.
Neither of the accusations made by the prosecution lawyer is true. (accusations – plural noun; is – singular verb)

Concept 2

When the sentence starts with each of/either of/neither of, each, either, neither:

  • ‘the’ is used before the plural noun
  • Singular adjective, Singular verb and Singular pronoun are used in the latter part of the sentence.
  • If there is a possessive pronoun after either/neither/each, then it will also take a singular form.

Each of the boys has their own table. (incorrect)
Each of the boys has his own table. (correct; boys – plural noun; has – singular verb; his – singular possessive pronoun)

What are Reciprocal Pronouns ?

Reciprocal Pronouns are compound pronouns that denote mutual relationship.

E.g. ‘each other’ and ‘one another’.

Nicole and Justin love each other.
The people in Nigeria are killing one another.

They are rarely separated even by a preposition.
They suspects gave evidence one against another. (incorrect)
They suspects gave evidence against one another. (correct)

Extra Books and Tools

If you prefer to learn via books, or want some good English Grammar books for reference purposes, you may read this article which enlists some of the books recommended by us.
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