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.
|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.