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Indefinite pronouns

Level: beginner

The indefinite pronouns are:

anybody everybody nobody somebody
anyone everyone no one someone
anything everything nothing something

We use indefinite pronouns to refer to people or things without saying exactly who or what they are. We use pronouns ending in -body or -one for people, and pronouns ending in -thing for things:

Everybody enjoyed the concert.
I opened the door but there was no one at home.
It was a very clear day. We could see everything.

Indefinite pronouns 1

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We use a singular verb after an indefinite pronoun:

Everybody loves Sally.
Everything was ready for the party.

When we refer back to an indefinite pronoun, we normally use a plural pronoun:

Everybody enjoyed the concert. They stood up and clapped.
I will tell somebody that dinner is ready. They have been waiting a long time.

Be careful!

In negative clauses, we use pronouns with no-, not pronouns with any-:

Nobody came. (NOT Anybody didn't come.)

We do not use another negative in a clause with nobody, no one or nothing:

Nobody came. (NOT Nobody didn't come.)
Nothing happened. (NOT Nothing didn't happen.)

Indefinite pronouns 2

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We can add 's to an indefinite pronoun to make a possessive:

They were staying in somebody's house.
Is this anybody's coat?

We use else after indefinite pronouns to refer to other people or things:

All the family came, but no one else.
If Michael can't come, we'll ask somebody else.
I think this is somebody else's coat.

Comments

Hello Lopa Shigaki,

Indefinite pronouns always take singular verbs, as you say. However, they describe multiple individuals and so when we replace them with regular pronouns we use 'they' rather than 'he', 'she' or 'it'. It does seem rather inconsistent, doesn't it, but that is how the language works!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir
I have a question. what is the difeerence between someone and somebody.
Thank you

Hi, there is no difference between 'someone' and 'somebody' in meaning but 'someone' is more formal.

Hello reshu sinha,

There is no difference in use. 'Someone' is perhaps slightly more formal and suited to formal writing, but both are quite common in everyday speech.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I'm really loving this website.
Well... I would like to ask about the exercise Indefinite Pronouns 1: 'I don’t want to talk to Stewart. I don’t have * to say to him.' We have to choose anybody or anything, but can we use some negative with any-? Or the rules are different of no- and negative clauses?

Hello Paulaxp,

For 1, the answer is 'anything' (by the way, if you press the Finish button and then the Check Answers button after that, you can see the correct answers). Yes, 'anybody' and 'anything' are both correct in a negative sentence, but 'anybody' wouldn't make sense there. This is because 'say' must be followed by a direct object which is a thing or idea and then, if there is an indirect object (like 'anybody'), the indirect object follows the preposition 'to'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk and Peter M. Could you please suggest me a good English-grammar boom whih I can study by myself? Thank you. Greetings from Venezuela.

Hello Daniel,

I'm afraid that we don't recommend specific books, but there are many good ones out there. If you do an internet search for something like  'best English grammar book', I'm sure you can find other learners' opinions on them and use their experience to help you choose one.

Good luck!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
Just wondering with the last example 'that's eggs, peas and chips', should the 'that's' be replaced with 'those are' since 'eggs, peas and chips' are plural noun while that and is are only used to refer singular noun?

Hello Hugong,

You could say 'there are' but in colloquial English the (perhaps non-standard) form 'that's' is used for both singular and plural in such contexts.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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