Sunday, 29 November 2020

 Indefinite pronouns

An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to non-specific beings, objects, or places. Indefinite pronouns can represent either count nouns or noncount nouns. They often have related forms across these categories: universal, assertive existential, elective existential, and negative.

Indefinite pronouns-English Grammar Lessons Guide

Indefinite pronouns-English Grammar Lessons Guide

Indefinite pronouns do not refer to a specific person, place, or thing. In English, there is a particular group of indefinite pronouns formed with a quantifier or distributive preceeded by any, some, every and no.

Indefinite pronouns are placed in the same location as a noun would go in the sentence.


I would like to go to Paris this summer.

Jim gave me this book.

I won't tell your secret to Sam.

I bought my school supplies at the mall.

Indefinite pronoun

I would like to go somewhere this summer.

Someone gave me this book.

I won't tell your secret to anyone.

I bought everything at the mall.


In affirmative sentences, indefinite pronouns using some are used to describe an indefinite quantity, the indefinite pronouns with every are used to describe a complete quantity, and the pronouns with no are used to describe an absence. Indefinite pronouns with no are often used in affirmative sentences with a negative meaning, but these are nevertheless not negative sentences because they are lacking the word not.


Everyone is sleeping in my bed.

Someone is sleeping in my bed.

No one is sleeping in my bed.

I gave everything to Sally.

He saw something in the garden.

There is nothing to eat.

I looked everywhere for my keys.

Keith is looking for somewhere to live.

There is nowhere as beautiful as Paris.

Any and the indefinite pronouns formed with it can also be used in affirmative sentences with a meaning that is close to every: whichever person, whichever place, whichever thing, etc.


They can choose anything from the menu.

You may invite anybody you want to your birthday party.

We can go anywhere you'd like this summer.

He would give anything to get into Oxford.

Fido would follow you anywhere.

Negative sentences

Negative sentences can only be formed with the indefinite pronouns that include any.


I don't have anything to eat.

She didn't go anywhere last week.

I can't find anyone to come with me.

Many negative sentences that include an indefinite pronoun with any can be turned into affirmative sentences with a negative meaning by using an indefinite pronoun with no. However, there is a change in meaning with this transformation: the sentence that includes an indefinite pronoun with no is stronger, and can imply emotional content such as definsiveness, hopelessness, anger, etc.


I don't know anything about it. = neutral

I know nothing about it. = defensive

I don't have anybody to talk to. = neutral

I have nobody to talk to. = hopeless

There wasn't anything we could do. = neutral

There was nothing we could do. = defensive/angry

Negative questions

Indefinite pronouns with every, some, and any can be used to form negative questions. These questions can usually be answered with a "yes" or a "no"

Pronouns formed with anyand every are used to form true questions, while those with some generally imply a question to which we already know or suspect the answer.


Is there anything to eat?

Did you go anywhere last night?

Is everyone here?

Have you looked everywhere?

These questions can be turned in to false or rhetorical questions by making them negative. The speaker, when posing a question of this type, is expecting an answer of "no".


Isn't there anything to eat?

Didn't you go anywhere last night?

Isn't everyone here?

Haven't you looked everywhere?

Some and pronouns formed with it is only used in questions to which we think we already know the answer, or questions which are not true questions (invitations, requests, etc.) The person asking these questions is expecting an answer of "Yes".


Are you looking for someone?

Have you lost something?

Are you going somewhere?

Could somebody help me, please? = request

Would you like to go somewhere this weekend? = invitation

These questions can be made even more definite if they are made negative. In this case, the speaker is absolutely certain he will receive the answer "Yes".


Aren't you looking for someone?

Haven't you lost something?

Aren't you going somewhere?

Couldn't somebody help me, please?

Wouldn't you like to go somewhere this weekend?

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

Some of the pronouns listed below are quite tricky. Everyone seems like it might be plural, right? Yet, any pronoun ending in -one is considered singular. Likewise, any pronoun ending in -body (like "everybody") is considered singular.

Anyone can play the game as long as they (plural) follow the rules.

At the Thanksgiving dinner, each brought a plated dish to make the meal complete.

Everyone knows it is impolite to point at someone.

Does anybody have a clue where the dog went?

Everyone had a great time at the Christmas party.

No one came forward to admit the crime, so the whole class was punished.

Although it could have happened to anyone, it happened to me.

Marie told nobody the secrets that went on at her house.

Someone called to tell me the horrible news.

I really just needed some time away from everyone.

When I looked around the house, I did not see anything out of the ordinary.

During my trip to the mall, I did not see anyone I knew.

I knocked on the door, but there wasn't anybody there.

Normally during the holidays, everyone leaves campus.

Someone walked past the window and shouted.

Anyone in their right mind would know better than to do that.

Michael walked in and handed the piece of paper to someone.

Everyone wandered aimlessly down the street wondering what would become of the spaceships that occupied the otherwise clear blue sky.

Anyone would have agreed the woman in the black dress was gorgeous.

Sometimes I wonder why anyone shops at this store.

Everyone enjoyed the food and the company.

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

One of the ways to distinguish between plural and singular indefinite pronouns is to check the verb usage. Plural indefinite pronouns always require a plural verb. Meanwhile, singular indefinite pronouns always require a singular verb. Let's take a look.

All are welcome to come to the birthday party tonight.

Some will do anything to gain the attention of others.

Some have the power to coax others to do what they want, while others lack the power to do anything but follow.

After I painted my walls a deep shade of purple and installed jet black carpet, some may consider my room too gloomy.

After the story of the plane crash hit the news, many called for information on loved ones aboard the flight.

Very few came to visit the crabby old woman on the corner, leaving many to wonder if anyone (singular) cared about her at all.

Few came to the wedding after the bride had a meltdown and lashed out at her family and friends.

Some just don't know when to quit while they are ahead.

Mary wanted some, but I do not have any.

All were late to the party.

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