Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite Pronouns

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

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

Note that many indefinite pronouns also function as other parts of speech. Look at “another” in the following sentences:

  • He has one job in the day and another at night. (pronoun)
  • I’d like another drink, please. (adjective)

Most indefinite pronouns are either singular or plural. However, some of them can be singular in one context and plural in another. The most common indefinite pronouns are listed below, with examples, as singular, plural or singular/plural.

Notice that a singular pronoun takes a singular verb AND that any personal pronoun should also agree (in number and gender). Look at these examples:

  • Each of the players has a doctor.
  • I met two girls. One has given me her phone number.

Similarly, plural pronouns need plural agreement:

  • Many have expressed their views.
pronoun meaning example
another an additional or different person or thing That ice-cream was good. Can I have another?
anybody/anyone no matter what person Can anyone answer this question?
anything no matter what thing The doctor needs to know if you have eaten anything in the last two hours.
each every one of two or more people or things, seen separately Each has his own thoughts.
either one or the other of two people or things Do you want tea or coffee? / I don’t mind. Either is good for me.
enough as much or as many as needed Enough is enough.
everybody/everyone all people We can start the meeting because everybody has arrived.
everything all things They have no house or possessions. They lost everything in the earthquake.
less a smaller amount Less is more” (Mies van der Rohe)
little a small amount Little is known about his early life.
much a large amount Much has happend since we met.
neither not one and not the other of two people or things I keep telling Jack and Jill but neither believes me.
nobody/no-one no person I phoned many times but nobody answered.
nothing no single thing, not anything If you don’t know the answer it’s best to say nothing.
one an unidentified person Can one smoke here? | All the students arrived but now one is missing.
other a different person or thing from one already mentioned One was tall and the other was short.
somebody/someone an unspecified or unknown person Clearly somebody murdered him. It was not suicide.
something an unspecified or unknown thing Listen! I just heard something! What could it be?
you an unidentified person (informal) And you can see why.
both two people or things, seen together John likes coffee but not tea. I think both are good.
few a small number of people or things Few have ever disobeyed him and lived.
fewer a reduced number of people or things Fewer are smoking these days.
many a large number of people or things Many have come already.
others other people; not us I’m sure that others have tried before us.
several more than two but not many They all complained and several left the meeting.
they people in general (informal) They say that vegetables are good for you.
singular or plural
all the whole quantity of something or of some things or people All is forgiven.
All have arrived.
any no matter how much or how many Is any left?
Are any coming?
more a greater quantity of something; a greater number of people or things There is more over there.
More are coming.
most the majority; nearly all Most is lost.
Most have refused.
none not any; no person or persons They fixed the water so why is none coming out of the tap?
I invited five friends but none have come.*
some an unspecified quantity of something; an unspecified number of people or things Here is some.
Some have arrived.
such of the type already mentioned He was a foreigner and he felt that he was treated as such.

* Some people say that “none” should always take a singular verb, even when talking about countable nouns (eg five friends). They argue that “none” means “no one”, and “one” is obviously singular. They say that “I invited five friends but none has come” is correct and “I invited five friends but none have come” is incorrect. Historically and grammatically there is little to support this view. “None” has been used for hundreds of years with both a singular and a plural verb, according to the context and the emphasis required.


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