Level: beginner

The indefinite pronouns are:

anybody everybody nobody somebody
anyone everyone no one someone
anything everything nothing something

We use indefinite pronouns to refer to people or things without saying exactly who or what they are. We use pronouns ending in -body or -one for people, and pronouns ending in -thing for things:

Everybody enjoyed the concert.
I opened the door but there was no one at home.
It was a very clear day. We could see everything.

Indefinite pronouns 1

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We use a singular verb after an indefinite pronoun:

Everybody loves Sally.
Everything was ready for the party.

When we refer back to an indefinite pronoun, we normally use a plural pronoun:

Everybody enjoyed the concert. They stood up and clapped.
I will tell somebody that dinner is ready. They have been waiting a long time.

Be careful!

In negative clauses, we use pronouns with no-, not pronouns with any-:

Nobody came. (NOT Anybody didn't come.)

We do not use another negative in a clause with nobody, no one or nothing:

Nobody came. (NOT Nobody didn't come.)
Nothing happened. (NOT Nothing didn't happen.)

Indefinite pronouns 2

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We can add 's to an indefinite pronoun to make a possessive:

They were staying in somebody's house.
Is this anybody's coat?

We use else after indefinite pronouns to refer to other people or things:

All the family came, but no one else.
If Michael can't come, we'll ask somebody else.
I think this is somebody else's coat.

Comments

Hello,

"If Michael can't come, we'll ask somebody else." in this sentence, can we use "someone" instead of "somebody"?
Thanks.

Hello redream

Yes, that is correct. They both mean exactly the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Please is there a rule for using the indefinite pronouns relating to people, i.e. somebody/someone, anybody/anyone, nobody/no one, everybody/everyone...?
Or, are they interchangeable?

Regards,
Tope

Hello Tope
The pronouns ending with 'body' and a little more informal (and thus used slightly more often in speaking) than the ones ending with 'one', but otherwise there is no difference in meaning or how they are used.
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

What's the best way to explain the use of indefinite pronouns with both singular and plural verbs? For example:

"I heard somebody come into the room."

as opposed to:

"Tell me if somebody comes into the room."

Is it just a difference in usage between subject and object pronouns?
Thanks.

Helo will-ea,

 

Indefinite pronouns always have singular verbs.

 

Your first example does not have a plural verb, but rather a verb in the subjunctive mood. This is a form which is used in certain constructions, including following sense verbs such as 'hear'. The present subjunctive form is the same as the base form and does not change for the third person. You can see this if you change 'somebody' to 'him':

I heard him come into the room.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you!

Thanks, the application of indefinite pronouns stays very clear for me.

Greetings,
I'm not sure if it has been mentioned before but there seems to be a slight error on the last question of the first indefinite pronoun question.

It reads: "I've had flu for the past...."
It should read "I've had *the* flu for the past.."

Cheers.

Hi TimW,

In American English, 'the' is used before 'flu' in the way you suggest, but most often it is not in British English. You can see a couple examples of this in the example sentences for the word 'flu' in the Cambridge Dictionary.

Thanks very much, though, for taking the time to tell us about this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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