Indefinite pronouns are pronouns that refer to nonspecific persons, places, or things. Examples of indefinite pronouns in English include: someone, anyone, everybody, no one, each, few, many, both, and several. They are used to refer to an unspecified person, place, or thing. Indefinite pronouns can be either singular or plural depending on the context in which they appear. For example:
- “Someone is in the waiting room” is singular while “Many people are in the waiting room” is plural. Indefinite pronouns are also used to refer to a group of people or things, such as “Everybody has a job to do”.
They can also be used to ask questions, such as “Which one do you like?”
Use of indefinite pronouns
The indefinite pronouns some and any are used before a plural noun or an uncountable noun:
- There was a book and some pens on the desk, but there wasn’t any chalk
As a rule, some is used in affirmative sentences, and any is used in interrogative and negative sentences (or in those that contain negative sentences)
|There is some juice in the cup
|I haven’t any juice. (= I have no juice.)
|Не needs some pencils. There are some in the drawer
|Не has not got any pencils. Have you got any?
|I saw some interesting toys in the shop
|I never saw any plants in his room
|We had sdme fun at the circus
|We won’t have any fun without you
In conditional sentences, as a rule, any is used:
- If you have any questions on the subject, ask your teacher for help
Some is usually used in offers, requests and invitations:
- Would you like some tea?
- Could you bring me some water?
In affirmative sentences, any is used when any object or person is meant:
- Please, take any book you like
Complex indefinite pronouns formed on the basis of some and any (somebody, someone, something , anybody, anyone, anything) are used according to the rules outlined above:
- Is there anybody in the room?
- Somebody knocked at the door
The pronouns somebody, anybody, someone, anyone, one have two cases: the common case and the genitive case. Some is chiefly used in affirmative sentences while any is used in negative and interrogative sentences and in conditional clauses.
- We spread down some wide blankets
- But his chief trouble was that he did not know any editors or writers
- Do you see any sign of his appreciating beauty?
- If you have any new books, show them to me please
When used with nouns of material some and any have the meaning of indefinite quantity
- Now run along and get some candy, and don’t forget to give some to your brothers and sisters
Some, not any, is used in special and general questions expressing some request or proposal.
- “Do you want some water?” “No, I don’t want any water.”
Some may have the meaning of ‘certain’ before a noun in the plural.
- You have some queer customers. Do you like this life?
Any may be used in affirmative sentences with the meaning of ‘every’.
- Above a square-domed forehead he saw a mop of brown hair… nut-brown, with a wave to it and hints of curls that were a delight to any woman…
Somebody, someone, something arc chiefly used in affirmative sentences.
- He wanted someone young, you know a dark Spanish type…
- I want to say something
Anybody, anyone, anything are used in negative and interrogative; entences and in conditional clauses.
- I don’t want anything
- Is there anything between him and Annette?
- If anyone had asked him if he wanted to own her soul, the question would have seemed to him both ridiculous and sentimental
- If Erik was ever to do anything of importance he would have to find a third way
Somebody, someone, something are used in special and general questions if they express some request or proposal.
- Will someone help me?
Anyone, anybody, anything may be used in affirmative sentences. Anyone, anybody are used with the meaning of ‘everyone’; anything is used with the meaning of‘everything’.
- “You’ve no business to say such a thing!” she exclaimed. “Why not? Anybody can see it.”
- There is a limit to what anyone can bear
- … she sank in spirit inwardly and fluttered feebly at the heart as she thought of entering anyone of these mighty concerns and asking for something to do — something that she could do — anything
The indefinite pronouns some and any may be used as subject, object and attribute.
- Some say the world will end in fire
- Some say in ice. (Frost) (SUBJECT)
- “I watch the fire — and the boiling and the roasting — ” “When there is any,” says Mr. George, with great expression (SUBJECT)
- … and his attention slid at once from such finality to the dust motes in the bluish sunlight coming in. Thrusting his hand up he tried to catch some (OBJECT)
- Where is his home? He didn’t have any. (OBJECT)
- Are there any real Indians in the woods? (ATTRIBUTE)
Someone, anyone, somebody, anybody, something, anything may be used as subject, predicative, or object. When used as a subject they require a verb in the singular.
- In the next house someone was playing over and over again “La donna e mobile” on an untuned piano (SUBJECT)
- … What he likes is anything except art (PREDICATIVE)
- And not merely did he not know any writers, but he did not know anybody who had ever attempted to write (OBJECT)
Though somebody, someone, anybody, anyone are used with the verb in the singular pronouns they, them, their arc often used after them.
- Someone has spilt their coffee on the carpet.
The genitive case of the pronouns somebody, someone, anybody, anyone is used as an attribute:
- … he could pull his cap down over his eyes and screen himself behind someone’s shoulder
- “It’s anybody’s right,” Martin heard somebody saying
- … I looked up; I was in somebody’s arms
When preceded by a preposition the pronouns somebody, someone, something, anybody, anyone, anything may be used as prepositional indirect objects.
- The girl doesn’t belong to anybody — is no use to anybody but me
- Such a purse had never been carried by anyone attentive to her
- So, though he wasn’t very successful at anything, he got along all right
The indefinite-personal pronoun one is often used in the sense of any person or every person.
- New York presents so many temptations for one to run into extravagance
The indefinite pronoun one is often used in a general sense.
- … Only one with constitution of iron could have held himself down, as Martin did
The pronoun one may be used in the genitive case:
- I know exactly what it feels like to be held down on one’s back
One may be used as a word-substitute:
- I was looking at them, and also at intervals examining the teachers — none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce
As a word-substitute one may be used in the plural:
- Some of the gentlemen were gone to the stables; the younger ones, together with the younger ladies, were playing billiards in the billiard room.