You are here

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

MultipleChoice_MTUyMjk=

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

MultipleChoice_MTUyMjg=

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,
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?

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?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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!

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
I drink anything. Is that true? In the tests as a correct variant. I mean not in the situation or dialogue.

Thanks beforehand.

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Pages