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Each other

When letting somebody know you could run into them later, you might want to say this:

“We might meet us!”

“We” and “us” are like oil and water: they cannot be mixed. You can try combining them in a single sentence, but they will want to separate.

While we would say “vielleicht treffen wir uns” in German, we cannot translate “uns” with “us” here. The translation you are looking for is “each other”:

“We might meet each other!”

“Each other” is a reciprocal pronoun. Something that is reciprocal is mutual and works in two directions. Meeting people is reciprocal, because both participants meet the other person. If John and Alice meet “each other”, it means that John meets Alice and Alice meets John.

If we say “maybe we meet us”, we take away that aspect of reciprocity. Meeting would only happen in one direction, which is impossible. As each person meeting the other is implied, we can remove the redundant information. We can drop the “each other” from the sentence and keep the same message:

“We might meet!”

When talking about others, “each other” always implies reciprocity. Using “them” implies an interaction with another unnamed party. “Themselves” means each person interacts only with their own person.

  • “Joe and Ben punch each other.” → Joe punches Ben and Ben punches Joe.
  • “Joe and Ben punch them.” → Joe and Ben punch some other people.
  • “Joe and Ben punch themselves.” → Joe punches Joe and Ben punches Ben.

Many actions can be reciprocal, such as meeting, punching, loving, or teaching. When you want to say that something happens mutually, you want to use “each other”.

If you send me some tips now, it’ll mean that we taught each other.

All lessons in this course

1

An actual video

Two words can look like translations of each other even if they aren’t. The word “actual” is our first venture into this category of false friends.

2

Making a photo

Even if you translate each individual word in a sentence correctly, the resulting translation can still be off.

3

What for a picture

Not every word in a sentence needs to appear in its translation. Languages don’t map to each other one-to-one.

4

Or?

You can spot Germans by the fact that they use “or” to ask questions. Unfortunately, the word doesn’t work that way in English.

5

Hello together

This mistranslation gave this course its name. “Together” refers to doing something with others. Here’s how to greet a group of people instead.

6

Handy

What do you call a phone you can hold in your hand? Well, it’s not this. If you call it a handy, you’re in for some awkward looks.

7

Becoming a car

“Bekommen” and “to become” are another pair of false friends. If you want something, make sure you’re not accidentally turning yourself into that thing.

8

Less vs fewer

Is it “less mistakes” or “fewer mistakes”? They both seem to say that something is not as much as it was before, but only one is grammatically correct.

9

Eventually

False friends are everywhere. Eventually is very similar to the German “eventuell”, but it means something completely different.

10

Whom

Why isn’t it “Whom let the dogs out”? The extra letter does not turn a regular “who” into a fancy version of itself.

11

Apostrophes

When coming from a language that doesn’t normally use them, where to put apostrophes can seem confusing.

12

I vs me

Was an event organized by “Nina and I” or “Nina and me”? To find which one applies, take the other person out of the sentence for a second.

13

Good vs well

You’re doing well, Superman is doing good. This lesson looks at the rules behind which of these two is correct in a given situation.

14

Looking forward

When you’re excited about something, tell others what that thing is. On its own, you’re only saying half an expression otherwise.

15

Gender-neutral pronouns

When you don’t know someone’s preferred pronouns, you can use they/them even when speaking about an individual person and not a group.

16

Please

We have been taught to always say please and thank you. Whether they are right for a situation depends on the context.

Each other

Some actions happen to multiple people at once, like running into someone. In these situations, we need to use reciprocal pronouns.

18

Do

Other languages don’t always use the auxillary “do” as much as the English language does, so it’s often lost in translation.