An indefinite pronoun replaces a noun without referring to any person or thing in particular. It is a group of pronouns that are used when the noun is unknown or for our convenience; for example, instead of asking, “Is Anne, Bob, Carrie, Dan or Ellen interested in coming along?”, we can use an indefinite pronoun to make thing easier: “Is anyone interested in coming along?”
The examples here should explain the use of an indefinite pronoun
- Someone is knocking the door.
(Someone is an indefinite pronoun and we use it because we are not referring to any particular person such as our mother, a friend or George who is knocking the door.)
- Is anybody there?
(Here, a question uses an indefinite pronoun anybody because the person asking the question does not want to know if a definite person is there – a person such as his uncle, friend or Michael. He just wants to know if a person is there.)
- Something is burning over there.
(The noun is unknown. We don’t know what thing is burning over there, so we use an indefinite pronoun something.)
There is a fair number of indefinite pronouns, and all of them do not refer specifically to any person or thing. Most indefinite pronouns are either singular or plural with a few of them that can be both singular and plural. Singular indefinite pronoun subjects take singular verbs and plural indefinite pronoun subjects take plural verbs.
|Singular||Plural||Singular or Plural|
Indefinite pronouns that end in –body, –one, and –thing are always singular and they must be matched with singular verbs.
A strange noise comes from the other room, but there wasn't anybody there.
Everybody is waiting to hear the good news.
Nobody wants to listen to my ghost stories.
Somebody has left the banana skins here.
Anyone is welcome to help wash my car.
Everyone is speaking but no one is listening.
Someone has to put the rubbish out.
Is there anything I can do to help?
Is everything all right?
Something in the kitchen smells strongly of rotten fish.
Either and neither
These two definite pronouns are used as singular.
Which of these two boxes is big enough for those things? I think either is big enough.
The police think either of the suspects was involved in the crime.
He begs his parents for forgiveness for what he has done, but neither forgives him.
Neither of them wants a divorce for the sake of the children.
Singular indefinite pronouns
Plural indefinite pronouns
Indefinite pronouns that are both singular and plural