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.
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.
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.
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.
Indefinite pronouns can take singular or plural verbs. Please note:
Here’s an interesting video from EngVid explaining a tricky thing – agreement of indefinite pronouns: