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INDEFINITE PRONOUNS


  • Indefinite pronouns refer to people or things without saying exactly who or what they are.
  • When an indefinite pronoun is the subject, it always takes a singular verb.
  • We often use a plural pronoun to refer back to an indefinite pronoun.
  • 1. The indefinite pronouns are:

    anybody everybody nobody somebody
    anyone everyone no one someone
    anything everything nothing something

    Note that "no one" is written as two words, or sometimes with a hyphen: "no-one".

    2. We use indefinite pronouns when you want to refer to people or things without saying exactly who or what they are. The pronouns ending in "-body" and "-one" refer to people, and those ending in "-thing" refer to things.

    I was there for over an hour before anybody came.

    It had to be someone with a car.

    Jane said nothing for a moment.

    3. When an indefinite pronoun is the subject, it always takes a singular verb, even when it refers to more than one person or thing.

    Everyone knows that.

    Everything was fine.

    Is anybody there?

    When we refer back to indefinite pronouns, we use plural pronouns or possessives, and a plural verb.

    Ask anyone. They 'II tell you.

    Has everyone eaten as much as they want?

    You can't tell somebody why they've failed.

    WARNING: Some speakers prefer to use singular pronouns. They prefer to say "You can't tell somebody why he or she has failed".

    4. We can add apostrophe s ('s) to indefinite pronouns that refer to people.

    She was given a room in someone's studio.

    That was nobody's business but mine.

    WARNING: We do not usually add apostrophe s ('s) to indefinite pronouns that refer to things. You do not say "something's value", you say "the value of something".

    5. We use indefinite pronouns beginning with "some-" in:

    • affirmative clauses

    Somebody shouted.

    I want to introduce you to someone.

    • questions expecting the answer "yes"

    Would you like something to drink?

    Can you get someone to do it?

    6. We use indefinite pronouns beginning with "any-":

    • as the subject or object in statements

    Anyone knows that you need a licence.

    You still haven't told me anything.

    I haven't given anyone their presents yet.

    You do not use them as the subject of a negative statement. You do not say "Anybody can't come in".

    • in both affirmative and negative questions

    Does anybody agree with me?

    Won't anyone help me?

    7. If we use an indefinite pronoun beginning with "no-", we must not use another negative word in the same clause. We do not say "There wasn't nothing".

    There was nothing you could do.

    Nobody left, nobody went away.

    8. We use the indefinite adverbs "anywhere", "everywhere", "nowhere", and "somewhere" to talk about places in a general way. "Nowhere" makes a clause negative.

    I thought I'd seen you somewhere.

    No-one can find Howard or Barbara anywhere.

    There was nowhere to hide.

    9. We can use "else" after indefinite pronouns and adverbs to refer to people, things, or places other than those that have been mentioned.

    Everyone else is downstairs.

    I don't like it here. Let's go somewhere else.

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