I'm working through the Collins easy learning German Grammar & Practice book, and am currently on the reflexive pronouns section. I'm confused, because it says:

'Unlike English, reflexive pronouns are used after prepositions when the pronoun 'reflects back' to the subject of the sentence.'

However, further down the page it says 'After prepositions, einander is always used instead of a reflexive pronoun. (The preposition and einander are then joined to form one word, e.g. miteinander)'

Which is correct? Many thanks

  • 3
    Could you provide some examples for German usage opposed to English usage? "Einander" does not replace the reflexive pronoun after prepositions in every case but only when there's need to emphasize reciprocity (English: "each other"). "Sie treffen sich." or alternatively "Sie treffen einander." - They meet each other. In such unambiguous situations, "einander" and "sich" can be seen as alternatives. In other situations you can make a difference between the two. ("Sie lieben einander."="They love each other." // "Sie lieben sich."="They love themselves or each other.")
    – Chris
    Aug 22 '14 at 13:59

Answer to the first question: yes, reflexive pronouns can follow prepositions; just as in English by the way

He is angry with himself.

As for the second part: First of, we have to make a distinction between pronouns that simply refer back to the subject and such that relate individuals of a group subject to each other. The latter are called "reciprocal" and "einander" is an example for those.

reflexive pronouns (selection): myself, yourself, ourselves...

reciprocal pronouns: each other, one another

There is a difference in meaning and so you cannot always replace "ourselves" with "einander". The second "rule" in your book is wrong.

Die Spieler staunen über sich.
Die Spieler staunen über einander.

The first sentence means that the players as a whole are amazed by themselves as a whole.... like... "Wow, we're a great team." The second means that the players are amazed by each other... like ... "Wow, Thomas you were amazing." "And you, Steve, and you."

If what you want to express is the reciprocal meaning then it is considered good style to use "einander" because "sich" is ambiguous.


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