Indefinite Pronouns

We use indefinite pronouns to talk about people, things and ideas without specifying them.

The most common indefinite pronouns are: ‘some‘, ‘any‘, ‘one‘ and their derivatives, as well as ‘all‘, ‘every‘, ‘each‘, ‘few‘, ‘little‘, ‘many‘/’much‘, ‘both‘, ‘either‘.

Indefinite pronouns may have different forms depending on their use in statements, negative sentences and questions.

  • Someone gave me a call this evening.
  • Is there anybody at home?
  • There’s nothing left on the table.

What indefinite pronouns denote

Indefinite pronouns may denote different things or ideas.

Animate objects

Indefinite pronouns denoting animate objects are formed using ‘-body’/’one’:

– to talk about a person, use ‘anybody’, ‘somebody’, ‘anyone’ and ‘someone’:

  • Peter doesn’t know anybody in his new school.
  • I saw somebody walking down the street.
  • You can ask someone to help you with your bags.

– to talk about all people in a group, use ‘everyone’ and ‘everybody’:

  • I would like everyone to attend our next meeting.
  • The room is empty. Where is everybody?

– to talk about no person, use ‘nobody’ and ‘no one’:

  • Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.
  • No one in the class could answer the teacher’s question.

Things or ideas

Indefinite pronouns denoting things or ideas are formed using ‘-thing

– to talk about availability of things or ideas, use ‘something’ and ‘anything’:

  • There is something special about Mary.
  • Is there anything I can do for you?

– to talk about unavailability of things or ideas, use ‘nothing’:

  • James and Timothy have absolutely nothing in common.
  • We did a great job and there is nothing left to do.

– to talk about availability of all things or ideas, use ‘everything’:

  • I’m leaving for Paris and I want to see everything there.
  • Becky is back to school, everything is fine with her.

Places

Indefinite pronouns denoting places are formed using  ‘-where’: ‘everywhere’, ‘anywhere’, ‘nowhere’ and ‘somewhere’:

  • Let’s go somewhere special.
  • This road leads to nowhere.
  • You can go anywhere you like.
  • Emily couldn’t find her phone, though she looked everywhere.

We can also use pronouns beginning with ‘any-’ in statements to mean all people or things, when it doesn’t matter who, what or where:

  • Anyone can play this game.
  • You are free to take anything you like from my clothes.
Note: Don’t put two negative words in one sentence.

– I didn’t see anything.

Correct: I saw nothing.
NOT: 
I didn’t see nothing.

How to use indefinite pronouns

1. We normally use ‘somebody’, ‘someone’, ‘something’ and ‘somewhere’ in statements and questions:

  • Yesterday I’ve met someone special.
  • We heard a loud noise from somewhere in the street.
  • Could somebody let me know what to do?
  • Can I have something to drink?

2. We use ‘anybody’, ‘anyone’, ‘anything’ and ‘anywhere’ in negative sentences and questions:

  • There isn’t anything you can do in this situation.
  • When Peter had arrived, he couldn’t find anyone at home.
  • Is there anybody going to listen to my story?
  • Would you like to travel anywhere next month?

3. We use ‘nobody’, ‘no one’, ‘nothing’ and ‘nowhere’ in statements and questions:

  • Nobody can understand me better than you.
  • This poor guy has nowhere to live.
  • Why is there no one in the office?
  • You always keep silent, do you have nothing to say?

4. We usually use ‘everybody’, ‘everyone’, ‘everything’ and ‘everywhere’ in statements:

  • Everybody knows this prominent artist.
  • I need everyone to leave this room immediately!
  • This is everything you need to know about her.
  • Spring is everywhere!
Note: ‘Everyone’, ‘everybody’ and ‘everything’ are always followed by a singular verb.

– Everybody was at the meeting.
NOT: Everybody were at the meeting.

Indefinite pronouns can take singular or plural verbs. Please note:

indefinite pronouns - singular or plural
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/20/74/43/2074439a76b7f0b4d53fb63ec391cfc3.jpg

Here’s an interesting video from EngVid explaining a tricky thing – agreement of indefinite pronouns:

See also:

Pronouns and Determiners: Each, Every, Either, Neither, Both, Half, All

Reflexive Pronouns

Interrogative Pronouns

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