Mastering the Phrase ‘Um ao Outro’ in Portuguese (10 examples)


Somehow, saying one another in Portuguese or, to each other just seems too tricky in Portuguese. Let's take a closer look at this much-overlooked phrase to see what it is exactly that's tripping us up. Hint: it's the ao that's the problem 😵.

  • Let's
  • break
  • it
  • down.

In English we say things like,

We'll see each other later today.
We understand one another other.

Um ao outro = one another == each other

one another in Portuguese

It's all pretty simple.

👨🏼‍🎓 We know we can express each of these like this,

We'll see each other later today. ➜ A gente se vê hoje mais tarde.
We understand each other. ➜ A gente se entende.

Why not stop there? ☞ Because you WILL hear people say it with um ao outro too, so you'd best know what it means. ALSO, you've seen how using verbs in the reflexive way can get very (very) confusing! The examples above are using the reflexive because that's what you have to do when using a verb that's acting on itself.

There are always the less memorable ones too like,

We understand each other. ➜ Nos nós entendemos. (😵‍💫!)

It took me quite a long time to get the hang of the "Nos nós..."and I found it much simpler to use um ao outro. Like this,

We'll see each other later today. ➜ A gente se vê hoje mais tarde. ➜ (using um ao outro) ➜ A gente vê uma ao outro mais tarde.

We understand each other. ➜ A gente se entende. ➜ (using um ao outro) ➜ A gente entende um a o outro.

See that? The um ao outro is taking the place of the reflexive prepositions (me, se, nos). In other words, you can always use um ao outro as a stand-in for these hard-to-remember reflexive sentences.

OBSERVE: It's always outro, never outra. It's masculine by default: UM AO OUTRO. (if it were feminine it would be: uma à outra - but it is not)

The examples say it all...

Using um ao outro

These are the most-used phrases employing the um ao outro (in Brazil). In each of these I'm presenting the um ao outro approach followed by the equivalent sentence using a reflexive verb to give you more options - and to remind you that there are always OTHER WAYS to express the same thing.

Eles cuidam um do outro. ➜ They take care of each other.

Or, using the reflexive instead: Eles se cuidam.

Eles vão aceitar um ao outro. ➜ They're going to accept each other.

Or, using the reflexive: Eles vão se aceitar.

Nós temos que aprender a comunicar um com o outro. ➜ We have to learn to communicate with each other.

Reflexive: Nós temos que aprender a nos comunicar.

Eles protegem um ao outro. ➜ They protect one another.

Reflexive: Eles se protegem.

Nós não temos nada a falar um ao outro. ➜ We don't have anything to say to each other.

Reflexive: Nós não temos nada nos falar.

Eles fazem um ao outro felizes. ➜ They make each other happy.

Or, using the reflexive instead: Eles se fazem felizes.

Vamos nós ajudarm um ao outro. ➜ Let's help each other.

Reflexive: Nós vamos nos ajudar.

Ainda mais exemplos: um ao outro

Using um ao outro - It's not always ao!

Literally, ao = to the (other)
And of course, sometimes it's not a simple a + o, but can also be de + o or even com + o. When? The rule is this: The right preposition {words like a, (at/to), de (of/from), com (with), em (in)} depends on the context - there is no rule! Language evolves to favor the better-sounding combinations or subtleties in meaning (I'm speaking with you not at you for example) and the best way to learn these is through repetition (ie, practice).

Eles não gostam um do outro. ➜ They don't like each other.

*O verbo GOSTAR always needs a "de", right? You can replace the ao with de + o ➜ do.
Using the reflexive: Eles não se gostam.

A calça e a camisa combinam um com o outro. ➜ The pants and the shirt go with each other.

✻ This one is often expressed without any reflexive at all! I don't know why 😵.
A calça e a camisa combinam.

These examples with the nós + nos are pretty confusing, right? That's why I like having the um ao outro weapon in my other holster.

Um ao outro: It's a bit formal.

Brazilians will generally opt for the less formal sounding reflexive (a gente se fala...). But it's a BIG advantage to know how to say the same thing without needing the reflexive pronoun (A gente fala um ao outro...).

"Um ao outro" is a phrase used in Brazilian Portuguese to express: One another in Portuguese or "one to the other". This phrase is often used to describe reciprocal actions, such as "Eles se amam um ao outro," which means "They love each other." It can also be used to express a shared relationship or connection between people, such as "Eles são amigos um ao outro," which means "They are friends with each other." It is a common way to express the reciprocal relationship in Portuguese.

Examples of "um ao outro" in context: Reverso Context