Indefinite Pronouns

Some pronouns are definite in that they replace a specific noun or another pronoun. But sometimes things aren’t so clear-cut. We don’t need to refer to anything or anyone definite. So what do we do for a pronoun? In those cases we use indefinite pronouns.

What are Indefinite Pronouns?

As the name suggests indefinite pronouns are pronouns that are not definite in meaning. In other words they are not specific in which noun they replace. They may be singular or plural, and must match the verb in number.

There are two categories of indefinite pronouns. The first category includes pronouns that refer to a nonspecific noun. These pronouns are:

anybody anyone
anything everybody
everyone everything
nobody none
no one nothing
somebody someone
something  

Example:

Anything is possible if you believe.

The second category of indefinite pronouns are those that point to a specific noun whose meaning is easily understood only because it was previously mentioned or because the words that follow the indefinite pronoun make it clear. These pronouns are:

all another
any both
each either
few many
neither one
some several

Examples:

Many are planning to attend the party. (In this case the identity of the group that is going to the party would have already been mentioned.)
Would you like to try some of these cookies? (The word cookies makes it clear what some is referring to.)

Not to confuse you but keep in mind the pronouns in this group can function as adjectives if nouns directly follow them.

More Examples:

Many classmates are planning to attend the party.
I checked out some books from the library.

Singular and Plural Indefinite Pronouns

As mentioned previously indefinite pronouns may be singular or plural and the verb has to match in number. Below is the list of singular indefinite pronouns.

Another Anybody
Anyone Anything
Each Either
Everybody Everyone
Everything Neither
Nobody No one
Nothing One
Somebody Something
Someone  

Examples:

There are three groups of participants, and each has its own requirements.
Someone special is about to arrive.

The following are plural indefinite pronouns:

Both Few
Many Several

Examples:

Few of the projects were good enough to go to the science fair.
Several of the documents were filled with errors.

Some indefinite pronouns may be singular or plural. It all depends on the noun it stands for. These pronouns include all, any, either, none, some, more, most. The rule states that when these pronouns are followed by a prepositional phrase, the pronoun must agree in number with the object of the preposition. The verb in the sentence must agree in number with the antecedent. Sound confusing? Here are two examples:

Most of the work is finished.
Most of the books are out of date.

In this case work requires a singular verb and books requires a plural verb.

Examples of Indefinite Pronouns

Does anybody have the time?
All are welcome to our house for Thanksgiving.
Tim doesn’t have any.
Michael passed his card to another.
Each brought a dessert to share.
Anyone can see what’s going on here.
Alice couldn’t hear anything at the concert.
Everything is going as planned
Everyone clapped when the movie ended.
Many missed the bus.
No one admitted to knocking over the base.
One could see the tornado forming from miles away.
Several turned out for the concert.
Somebody rang the doorbell.
Holly gave her ticket to someone.

To sum it all up, use indefinite pronouns when the noun substitute doesn’t have to be definite in meaning. Remember that they can be singular or plural in the corresponding verbs must match the number.