Indefinite pronouns

Learn about the indefinite pronouns anybody, everybody, nobody and somebody and do the exercises to practise using them.

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.

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Helo will-ea,

 

Indefinite pronouns always have singular verbs.

 

Your first example does not have a plural verb, but rather a verb in the subjunctive mood. This is a form which is used in certain constructions, including following sense verbs such as 'hear'. The present subjunctive form is the same as the base form and does not change for the third person. You can see this if you change 'somebody' to 'him':

I heard him come into the room.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Santiago Perez on Tue, 11/12/2018 - 17:41

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Thanks, the application of indefinite pronouns stays very clear for me.

Submitted by TimW on Tue, 24/04/2018 - 07:28

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Greetings, I'm not sure if it has been mentioned before but there seems to be a slight error on the last question of the first indefinite pronoun question. It reads: "I've had flu for the past...." It should read "I've had *the* flu for the past.." Cheers.

Hi TimW,

In American English, 'the' is used before 'flu' in the way you suggest, but most often it is not in British English. You can see a couple examples of this in the example sentences for the word 'flu' in the Cambridge Dictionary.

Thanks very much, though, for taking the time to tell us about this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Thu, 12/04/2018 - 07:40

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Dear Sir This is from your website. I know it is correct but I would like to know the reason. My question is; So, that's eggs, peas , and chips. All are plural verbs but why singular subject(that is) Sometimes we say that is all in spoken and in writing. Please let me know the reason. Regardss Andrew int .
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 13/04/2018 - 06:21

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

The context is always important. This sentence sounds like an order in a restaurant and the 'that is' refers to the person's order. You could rephrase it as 'So your order is eggs, peas and chips'.

This is a common way of summarising orders and requests in shops, restaurants and so on.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sajjakarthik on Fri, 28/12/2018 - 07:58

In reply to by Andrew international

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can we say like this i.e.; these are eggs,peas,chips thanks for the reply in advance

Hi sajjakarthik,

As Peter remarks, whether this is correct or not depends on the context. If you are pointing at some eggs, peas and chips and telling someone what they are called in English, or if you were pointing at a piece of abstract art and telling someone what you see in it, this would be correct. But if you're in a restaurant, summarising and order, it would not be correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by hawa100 on Tue, 27/03/2018 - 23:55

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Hello! Kindly explain to me the difference between these two sentences: I will like to go. I would like to go. Can they be interchanged ?
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 29/03/2018 - 06:24

In reply to by hawa100

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Hi again hawa100,

'will' and 'would are used differently, so in most cases you cannot exchange them without changing the meaning. Please see our will or would page for an explanation.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by hawa100 on Sat, 24/03/2018 - 21:56

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Hello! I would like to know the difference between indefinite pronoun and distributive pronoun. Thank you in advance for the help.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 25/03/2018 - 08:29

In reply to by hawa100

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Hello hawa100,

Indefinite pronouns do not identify people or things specifically but in general and non-specific terms. They include words like everyone, everybody, everything, no-one, nobody, nothing, anyone, anybody, anything, someone and so on.

Distributive pronouns refer to members of a group separately and not collectively. They include each, any, either, neither and others.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Sir for the answer. I have seen the difference now.

Submitted by foofighters12 on Mon, 22/01/2018 - 19:50

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I got 8 out 8 for that one.