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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


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 Thanh Thuyy,

Thank you for your nice comment! We are always looking to add content so you will find more language tasks in the future. Also, please note that our reading, listening and watching materials all have language tasks with them, so they include grammar as well as skills work.


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The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk and Peter M.,

What is the difference between "anybody" and "somebody"?
Which is correct: "Can somebody help?" or "Can anybody help?"

Thank you. Greetings from Indonesia

Hello widiatnala,

The difference is not simple and not something which can be expressed in a simple definition. Both mean 'a person, it doesn't matter who', but we tend to use 'somebody' when the expectation is that there is a person, and 'anybody' when we are suggesting there many not be a person. This is the same as with the use of 'some' and 'any' generally.

This often means that 'somebody' occurs most often in affirmative sentences and 'anybody' in negative sentences and questions.

In your examples, the first sentence (with 'somebody') suggests that the speaker believes there is a person capable of helping, and is asking if they are willing. The second sentence (with 'anybody') suggests that the speaker is less optimistic about getting help because they don't know if there is a person or not.

It is a subtle distinction, I'm afraid.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I have a doubt, there is a very famous film with Marylin Monroe titled "Some like it hot", well, shouldn't it be "Some likes it hot"?

thanks in advance

Hello Rich22,

In that title, 'Some' means 'Some people' so 'like' is actually correct. It's great that you spotted this! 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the lesson. I am little confused on what personal pronoun is to be used in the sentence given below:

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

In above sentences, the indefinite pronoun 'everybody' and 'somebody' is replaced by pronoun "they".

Isn't 'everybody' and 'somebody' singular indefinite pronoun ??

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,


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,


The LearnEnglish Team