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Indefinite pronouns

Level: beginner

Some of the indefinite pronouns in English 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
I've learned that we use any in the negative clauses and no... in the affirmative clauses. But here it's written-
We use indefinite pronouns with no- as the subject in negative clauses (not pronouns with any.)
Is it concern only subject?
Thanks.

We use indefinite pronouns with no- as the subject in negative clauses (not pronouns with any.)
Anybody didn’t come >> Nobody came.

Hello Mimina,

Yes, what is explained on this page is correct. 'Anybody didn't come' is not correct in English – instead it should be 'Nobody came'. In that sentence, 'nobody' is the subject, but the rules are different when an indefinite pronoun is not the subject. For example, when it's the object, you could say 'We didn't see anybody' (notice the negative verb) or, though less commonly, 'We saw nobody' (notice the affirmative verb).

Does that make sense? If you want to read another explanation of this and see more example sentences, this page in the Cambridge Dictionary is a good resource – scroll down to the heading Nobody or not ... anybody, etc.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
In the test there is sentence: I don’t have anything to say to him.
Can I say: I have nothing to say to him?
Thanks in advance

Hello myumla,

Yes, that is correct and means the same thing – good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
Which of the following sentences is correct?
write names of each of the boys
write name of each of the boy.

Thanks

Hello naghmairam,

It looks as if you're talking about more than one name and more than one boy, so the first version is better. Though you should say 'write the names of each of the boys'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team
 

hi ,
the example, 'All the family came, but no one else.'
I am a bit confused about this , is "but no one else " for emphasis ?
Thanks

Hello mandyye1991,

'but no one else' tells us that no other people came – only family. So it's not emphasis, it's clarifying who came and who did not. This sentence could be showing that we expect the person we are talking to thinks that other people (in addition to our family) came. It's difficult to say for sure without the context, but that at least is one context when it would be commonly used.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello

I have a question. In the first exercise "indefinite pronouns 1" the fisrt sentence said "I went to the Bakers’ house this morning but there was _______ home.

What is the reason for not using the preposition "at" before home? I went to the Bakers’ house this morning but there was nobody at home.

Hello viviancgc,

The word "home' can function as an adverb or as a noun.

When used as an adverb there is no preposition needed: go home, stay home, return home etc.

When used as a noun a preposition is needed: stay at home, go to your home, return to your home etc.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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