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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


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


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.


Hello x090909,

It is possible to use 'something' in questions, especially when we think that the answer will be positive. For example:

'Have you changed anything?' (I'm not sure, or think that the answer will be 'no')
'Have you changed something?' (I think there is a good chance that the answer will be 'yes')

A similar pattern is common in requests:

'Do you have any sugar?' (I'm suggesting that I think you may not)
'Do you have some sugar?' (I think you have)

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks so mush for your answer.
But you know someone said me I should use in this case simple past instead of perfect. Is it true? I use perfect here as I want to know what happened with a document since our last meeting. I mean I am interested in possible changes.

About "something". Many sources suggest use "something" only in request questions when we can expect a positive answer. But they don't have information about other cases. So it made me think that I can't use. So according to your answer I was not wrong as I absolutely predict that he will change a document.

Sorry for my English.

Hi x090909,

Yes, your use of something was perfect in the context that you explained. Good job!

As for the simple past or present perfect, either form is fine in the context you mention. Some speakers of English would more readily use the simple past here, whereas others would more readily use the present perfect.

Whether you use one or the other is just a matter of your perspective on the changes: with simple past there's more emphasis on them being finished, and with the present perfect there's more emphasis on some connection with the present.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

This is a nice lesson which helps day to day conversation.

I don't understand very well when I may use nobody, anybody or somebody? 

Hello memecobas,
I think the answer to your question is on this page!  Take another look at the information here and the examples, and if you have any specific questions about particular uses of any of the indefinite pronouns then please post them and we'll be happy to answer.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Why do we use a singular verb after an indefinite pronoun. I got this question because we use a plural pronoun when we are referring back to an indefinite pronoun as mentioned in the lesson? Is it a rule in the language?

Hello Gamaya,
Thank you for an interesting question.  I'm afraid I can't explain why the language works like this but I can confirm that you understand it correctly.  The indefinite pronouns take a singular verb, but we use a plural pronoun to refer back.  It's just one of those little quirks that all language throw up from time to time, I'm afraid.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter. 

I scored 50%. what does it mean?