I don't speak Spanish, but it seems Spanish is a nice parallel to a language I am studying, concerning reciprocal constructions, specifically "los unos ... los otros".

I was wondering if you could tell me if some of these variants would be grammatical:

  1. Making both elements singular?
  2. Using no connective, i.e. "los unos los otros" without preposition in between (from the example below it seems that this is possible - is this usage frequent or restrictive?)?
  3. Using a conjuction, i.e. "los unos [and] los otros"?
  4. With another reciprocal marker (e.g. "juntos")?
  5. I have seen that "los unos las cargas de los otros" (with a genetive as second participant) is allowed. Would this also be possible with the first participant, something like "las cargas de los unos ... los otros"?

If there are dialectal differences, I would be interested in that as well although it is not the main focus of this question.

2 Answers 2


Los unos los otros is not possible as reciprocal, because a only subjects and direct objects can lack any sort of preposition in front. And even then, anthropomorphic/ized direct objects must be preceded by the preposition a, and even if not, if there is the potential for confusion, then the a becomes necessary.

Los unos y los otros is perfectly grammatical, but not as anything reciprocal. This grouping would function find to refer to two different groups that collectively comprise, e.g., the subject.

Se abrazan juntos los unos a los otros sounds a bit weird, but grammatically is fine and there may be some situation where it makes sense.

el uno al otro is fine, and implies that there are only two people involved. While uncommon, you can (but not required) have the genders be different (ditto in plural) if for instance we refer to a couple: Ana y Juan se peinaron, no a sí mismos, sino el uno a la otra.

The structure you mention at the end is valid but in many cases (especially the genitive) it would be best to let the thing being owned function as the direct object, and leaving the unos as the subject and otros as the indirect object. The only reason the example you gave works is because it comes from a command where (necessarily) los unos cannot function as the subject.

  • @walen sort of, but actually probably more like the last one, because there junto a is better interpreted as a locución preposicional and would be grammatically equivalent to, say, se encontraban los unos al lado de los otros Jan 24, 2018 at 16:41

"los unos" and "los otros" can be used as separate phrases to refer to two different groups, or can be joined by a conjunction (for example, y) or by a preposition (for example, a, con) to indicate different relationships.

To express reciprocity, you need to reinforce with an adverbial like "mutuamente" (mutually) or "entre sí" (with each other, with one another).

More usual than los unos and los otros (which can sound rather heavy) are unos and otros, as shown by these NGram charts:

unos y otros

unos a otros

unos con otros

  • Interesting approach. But I think you need to set the corpus to Spanish to get meaningful results :-) Interestingly, the construction seems to have lost popularity over these 200 years.
    – user18656
    Jan 24, 2018 at 21:01

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