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


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.

Average: 4.4 (110 votes)
Profile picture for user CHÉKYTAN

Submitted by CHÉKYTAN on Mon, 05/02/2024 - 22:31


"All the family came, but no one else."

why second part of this sentence does not contain any verb?


"But" links two phrases/clauses of the same type.

  • I like dogs but not cats. (linking two nouns: I like A but not B)
  • I like eating but I don't like cooking. (linking two clauses: A but B)

In your example, "no one else" links to the first noun phrase "All the family". We can reorder the sentence information to make this meaning clearer: All the family but no one else came. Your example sounds more natural, however, as it avoids the long and difficult phrase "All the family but no one else".

Alternatively, you could add "did": All the family came, but no one else did. This makes the structure more clearly of the type A but B (linking two clauses).

I hope that helps to understand it.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Bryan______ on Mon, 27/11/2023 - 04:56


Which sentence is grammatically correct?

Context: Being offered a drink
"Do you have something sweet?"
"Do you have anything sweet?"

Hello Bryan______,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. In certain contexts 'some' gives the sense that we expect a positive answer which 'any' gives the sense that the answer may be negative, but this is a very subtle distinction and you can use either form when making requests like these.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by arianni on Thu, 14/09/2023 - 00:42


i have a questions hope you can help me i have seen some examples like : anyone can hellp me is that correct in a negative clause
is it correct anyone came? or that's a mistake

Hello arianni,

No, that's not correct. We would say one of these:

Is it correct someone came?

It is correct no-one came?


The reason is that we have an embedded question here. In other words, after 'Is it correct...' we use a normal sentence construction rather than a question/interrogative. For example:

Is it true you are a teacher? [NOT *Is it true are you a teacher?*]

If the question were a normal question then anyone would be possible. For example:

Did anyone come?



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Sun, 15/01/2023 - 18:53



Could you please explain if it is correct to say "Nobody wants nothing", "Nobody goes nowhere" or am I to say "Nobody wants anything" and "Nobody goes anywhere"?

Thank you very much indeed for your precious help and in particular. for answering this question!!!

Hi howtosay_,

Yes, all these sentences are correct. However, they have opposite meanings.

  • Nobody wants anything. = Everybody has all the things that they want.
  • Nobody wants nothing. = Everybody wants something.
  • Nobody goes anywhere. = Everybody stays in one place.
  • Nobody goes nowhere. = Everybody goes somewhere.

The sentences with a double negative (e.g. nobody + nothing) have a positive rather than a negative meaning. I hope that helps to understand it.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by abdulkodirmalik on Thu, 12/01/2023 - 06:40


Hello, i want to ask

If theres a message says "feed poor people" does it mean plural (feed more than one) or singular (feed one is minimum)


Hello abdulkodirmalik,

'People' is a plural noun so the sentence refers to more than one.

If you want to talk about a single individual you would use 'person'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by g-ssan on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 19:05


Hello sir ,
Can we use definite article and indefinite article with indefinite pronouns

Hello g-ssan,

No, articles are not used with indefinite pronouns.

We can, however, say that someone is 'a nobody'. But in this case, 'nobody' isn't an indefinite pronoun; instead, it's a noun that refers to someone who is unimportant (see definition 2 in this dictionary entry).

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,
I want to ask that can we use "everyone" in negative sentences such as" everyone doesn't like that film" ?

Hi mianguyen,

No, that would be unusual. It would be more usual to say "Nobody likes that film" or "Everybody dislikes that film".


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jkos on Fri, 03/06/2022 - 14:46


In the following sentence can you use both 'any' and 'anything'?

Have you got a cold drink for me, please? _____ will do.

Thanks in advance.

Submitted by Elisa Rangel García on Sat, 09/04/2022 - 23:18


Good afternoon Teacher, I'd like to know if it's correct this sentence:

Is there anybody in the room?
because I was told that It's only correct :

Is there anything in the room? Thanks in advanced, Greetings!¡

Hello Elisa,

Both anything and anybody (and also anyone) are correct here. Anything asks about things - objects which are not people. Anybody/anyone asks about people.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ESLteacherBB on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 09:42


I'm an ESL teacher and I'll be teaching Indefinite Pronouns today. I've seen the sentences below in the course book;
"Someone didn't tell the truth."
"Someone didn't remember to turn off the TV."
I've checked all my grammar books but haven't found anything about "someone, somebody, something" being used in negative statements and it sounds really wrong. Could you help me with that? Thank you...

Hello ESLteacherBB,

While it's true that we generally say that 'some' is used in affirmative clauses and 'any' is used in negative clauses, this is not always the case.

The sentences you ask about are correct, and it would not be correct to say 'Anyone didn't tell the truth' or 'Anyone didn't remember to turn off the TV'. This is because although these sentences have a negative verb, they are affirmative sentences in terms of their meaning -- they are stating that someone did something: someone lied, or someone left the TV on.

It might help to compare these two sentences to what they would mean with 'nobody'. For example, 'Nobody told the truth' doesn't mean the same thing as 'Someone didn't tell the truth'. In 'Nobody told the truth' you are saying that everyone lied; in 'Someone didn't tell the truth' you are saying that one person lied.

This is a somewhat difficult point, but I hope it's a little clearer now.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Tue, 27/07/2021 - 11:35

Hello, I wonder if we can use both he/they in same context. for example in exercise two there is a sentence saying, If anybody has any questions, ___ very welcome to come and ask me. in this case can we use' he' by referring it to both men and women or 'they' is the only option since the gender is unknown? Thanks in advance
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 27/07/2021 - 16:35

In reply to by Maahir


Hello Maahir,

Nowadays, many people prefer to say 'they' in a situation like this in an effort to include people who are not men. For many years, though, 'he' was used to mean the same thing in this case.

My guess is that more people would prefer to see 'they' here than people who would prefer to see 'he'. The people who prefer 'they' would probably argue that using 'he' is sexist.

But of course, in the end, which pronoun you use is your choice.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shoaib50 on Sat, 26/12/2020 - 08:19

Hello team, I have a question in my mind. We usually use somebody for affirmative sentences. Can we use it as interrogative sentence ? 2. As you mentioned in your article that we cannot use any as subject of the sentence but i usually use one sentence which is " I dont go with anyone" is it correct ? Please explain proper use of anybody/one/thing. thank you!


Hello Shoaib50,

It is possible to use somebody (~one/~thing/~where etc) in interrogative sentences. Generally, we do this when we want to imply that the answer is 'yes':

Was anybody there? [a neutral question]

Was somebody there? [I expect you were not alone]


In your example 'anyone' is not a subject; it is the object of the preposition 'with'.


It is possible to use indefinite pronouns with 'any' as subjects. We use them when we want to emphasise that we are making no selection:

Anywhere is fine. [I don't care where]

Anybody can come. [it doesn't matter who]



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ivans on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 18:44

Hello, Anyone can do this if they try or if he tries.....which one is correct. ? Similarly, none can save even if he tries or they try.....which one should I use?
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 23/11/2020 - 07:50

In reply to by ivans


Hello ivans,

Many people use 'they' to refer to one person whose gender is unknown, so 'Anyone can do it if they try' is fine. Traditionally, 'he' could refer to both men and women, 'he tries' could also be correct, though I'd say more people would say 'they' these days. The same rule applies to the second sentence as well.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MonsieurPirato on Wed, 18/11/2020 - 22:04

I have a question regarding the indefinite pronoun "all". Can it be used to refer to people? I thought of the Pledge of Allegiance (...with liberty and justice for all.), so it should be possible right? I'm aware that it might seem archaic. for example: "here's to all I have known". Although it may cause misinterpretation, can it still be used to refer to an indefinite group of people? Thanks and best regards

Hi MonsieurPirato,

You're right, all can refer to people! Here are some more examples.

  • Dear all (at the start of an email)
  • One for all, all for one.
  • See you all later.

So, it's not just an archaic usage. But, it tends to be used in a context which makes clear that it refers to people and not things. Without that context, it may be misinterpreted, as you said. For example, my first understanding of your example sentence is that all refers to things, not people.

Does that make sense?


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maggie on Sun, 25/10/2020 - 13:25

Dear Sir, This past week we learned about indefinite pronouns. But I was very confused when my teacher told me that the sentence, "Someone has removed the grammar book, and I want him to return it." ,is correct instead of "them" being used in place of "him". Do you think she is right? Please do reply ASAP!
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 25/10/2020 - 15:02

In reply to by Maggie


Hello Maggie,

In some grammars, especially more traditional ones, 'him' is indeed the correct answer here. This is because the pronoun 'he' (in all its forms, including 'him') can be used to refer to people whose gender we don't know.

More and more people don't like using 'he' in this way since it seems to exclude women and so many people now use 'they' (see the 'he', 'she' and 'they' section) in its place, i.e. when they are referring to a person whose gender is unknown.

For the purposes of your class, I'd recommend you follow what your teacher says.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jualvess on Fri, 23/10/2020 - 20:28

I know this sentence is wrong but i cannot explain why, can help me? "Anyone in my family isn't innocent" I feel like "anyone" doesn't belong here. Am I crazy?

Hello Jualvess,

The sentence should be 'Nobody in my family is innocent'.

'Anyone' is generally used in questions and negatives, but not as the subject. In certain contexts it can be used as the subject with the meaning 'there are no restrictions on who is included'. For example:

Anyone can come. [there are no restrictions on who can come]

However, we do not use as the subject of negative verbs.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fidan_Gassim on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 09:47

Hello I drink anything. Is that true? In the tests as a correct variant. I mean not in the situation or dialogue. Thanks beforehand.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 08:00

In reply to by Fidan_Gassim


Hello Fidan_Gassim,

Anything is usually found in questions and negatives, but it is possible to use it in an affirmative sentence when you want to say that you can accept whatever there is. For example:

I'm so hungry I'll eat anything. [whatever you have, I'll eat it; it doesn't matter what it is]

In your example, it is possible to use anything with this meaning.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bienne on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 11:26

but IT, ONE, YOU can also be 'indefinite'.

Hello bienne,

Yes, that is correct. The list is not comprehensive. You could also add either, neither, both, all, any and various other pronouns to the list.

I've updated the page to make it clear that the list is not comprehensive.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by xeesid on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 08:40

Dear sir, I wish to know the difference between the use of "all are not" and 'not all are'. For example, here is a situation: Some people believe about the members of a tribe named V that they are cheaters. The speaker says this to mention those people's opinion: They think that they are better than V tribe and that the members of V tribe swindle each other out of money. Now the speaker disagrees that everyone in that tribe does so, because many of the members of the tribe are honest, they don't swindle, and he wants to say that, 'Some of the members swindle, not all.' What should he say? 1. But all V tribe members are not like that. OR 2. But not all V tribe members are like that.
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 03:45

In reply to by xeesid


Hi xeesid,

Both sentences are grammatically possible, but the second one is better. The speaker wants to emphasise 'not all', and this appears at the start of sentence 2 so it will communicate this meaning more effectively. Sentence 1 has 'not' near the end of the sentence and separated from 'all', so the meaning is less clear.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by knownman on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 17:57

Hello, Could you please shed light on these sentences. Which auxiliary verb 'is or are' do I have to use after everybody and everything the following sentences? In the end, everything and everybody [is or are] for sale. Everybody and everything [is or are] mortal. As pronouns the difference between everything and everyone [is or are] that everything is (literally) all the things under discussion while everyone is every person. Best regards.

Hello knownman,

I would say 'is' in both cases, but there are probably others who would argue that 'are' is correct.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user OlaIELTS

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Sun, 07/06/2020 - 23:00

It's really helpful.

Submitted by Im unkown on Mon, 18/05/2020 - 10:32

thank you this helped me understand them

Submitted by Almudena2009 on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 12:41

An indefinite pronoun does not refer to any specific person, thing or amount. It is vague and "not definite". Some typical indefinite pronouns are: all, another, any, anybody/anyone, anything, each, everybody/everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody/someone.

Submitted by H_L on Sat, 02/05/2020 - 04:09

Hello, Let me see if I got this correctly, indefinite pronouns can be singular and plural. We treat them as singular when we think of the verb after them, but we treat them as plural when we refer back to them? Thank you.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 02/05/2020 - 08:14

In reply to by H_L


Hello H_L,

That's quite right. Well done!



The LearnEnglish Team

This is the first time I study grammar from here; I find it very clear and straightforward. Also, whenever I don't understand something, you help me clear things up. Thank you, I appreciate your help greatly.

Submitted by Natavan Gojayeva on Sat, 14/12/2019 - 14:55

What is the question form of this sentence. Nobody wants to go with him. Who wants to go with him? Or Who doesn't want to go with him? Thank you