What Are Indefinite Pronouns? Types, Agreement, and Use

Learning about indefinite pronouns is an important part of mastering the English language and English grammar, but many students become confused about what indefinite pronouns actually are. Teachers like to explain indefinite pronouns by reminding them of the following phrase: "Everyone is meeting at the restaurant?"

In this example, we are not focusing on a definite person, but all the people that are meeting us. Keep reading to learn about the indefinite pronouns and understand more about how these pronouns work.

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Use of Indefinite Pronouns

An indefinite pronoun replaces a noun. It doesn’t have a “definite” subject, but is vague, so it’s called an indefinite pronoun. Explore examples of the types of indefinite pronouns.

Singular Indefinite Pronoun

These are treated as if they are singular objects, and not plural. Singular indefinite pronouns are:

  • somebody
  • someone
  • something
  • nobody
  • no one
  • nothing
  • everybody
  • everyone
  • everything
  • another
  • anybody
  • anyone
  • anything
  • each
  • either
  • one
  • other
  • neither
  • much

Look at the following examples, and see how they are paired with a verb that is third-person singular:

  • No one wants to watch a movie.
  • Anyone can be a movie star.
  • Everything went wrong last night.

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

Plural indefinite pronouns are treated as plural objects. Here is a list of plural indefinite pronouns.

  • several
  • many
  • others
  • few
  • both

Here are a few examples of these plural indefinite pronouns in action. Notice how they are put together with a verb that is third-person plural:

  • Both like to eat cheeseburgers.
  • Few enjoy doing their homework.
  • Many like ice cream.

Indefinite Pronoun Agreement

As you can see, indefinite pronouns are, typically, singular or plural. Therefore, when you write a sentence using indefinite pronouns, it’s important to make sure the verb and personal pronouns all need to agree.

Singular Indefinite Pronoun Agreement

For example, if you use an indefinite pronoun as third-person singular, then by all means it belongs with other third-person singular pronouns. Look at the examples below:

  • Each boy ate his ice cream cone.
  • Nobody has answered her call.

Since the indefinite pronoun is singular the verb and other personal pronouns like “his” are also singular.

Plural Indefinite Pronoun Agreement

For plural indefinite pronouns, you follow the same pattern of keeping everything in agreement. For example:

  • Most have refused their help.
  • Some have arrived in their cars.
  • Several found their campsite.

Make sure to practice using the right verb conjugation with the right indefinite pronoun. Often people forget to make sure the verb matches the pronoun, and therefore many English teachers get upset that their students aren't grasping the idea of indefinite pronouns.

The reality is, however, that this problem is very minor: many native English speakers still mix up their indefinite pronouns, and if you use an indefinite pronoun with the wrong verb, an English speaker might not even notice.

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Conditional Indefinite Pronoun Examples

Indefinite pronouns can be used when the meaning is conditional. This means there are conditions that need to be met for the phrase or for “if” this “then” this will happen sentences.

In each example, the first sentence uses an indefinite pronoun in a question format, and the second sentence uses an indefinite pronoun in a conditional clause.

  • Will someone wait for me? If somebody can wait for me, I would greatly appreciate it.
  • Do you need to eat something? If you need something to eat, I can offer you some pizza.
  • Would you like another? If you would like another, just ask nicely!

Interesting Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns make it easier to talk quickly and efficiently with people. Look at the following two examples: which is easier to understand and quicker to say?

  • Mary, Mike, Steve, and Kate are meeting us at the restaurant.
  • Everyone is meeting us at the restaurant.

Surely most people would choose to say the second sentence: it covers a lot of information just using one easy indefinite pronoun.

Find out more about pronouns by checking out demonstrative pronouns. This is going to get interesting.