Indefinite Pronouns

Referring to an unknown or specified noun

fisherman 2fisherman 3
 

 

Definite Noun vs. Indefinite Pronoun

SUBJECT IS NAMED

A noun or personal noun is used when the subject is known and specified.

Tom caught twelve fish.

Norman, Tom and Icaught fish.

Norman, Tom and I didn't give up.

A fish got away.

SUBJECT IS AN INDEFINITE PRONOUN

We use an indefinite pronoun when the noun is unknown or not specified.

Someone caught twelve fish.

All caught fish.

Nobody gave up.

One got away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indefinite Pronouns

Singular

 

 

 

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

(neg.)

 

anybody

nobody

everybody

somebody

anyone

no one

everyone

someone

anything

nothing

everything

something

any (with a noncount noun)

neither

either

little (with a noncount noun)

*much

none¹ (with a noncount noun)

one / another ;/ each

some (with a noncount noun)

 

 

all (with a noncount noun)

 

 

 

more / most (with a noncount noun)

 

*Used mainly in questions and negative sentences

¹none is more commonly plural in agreement

Also see:  Quantity Phrases  | Another / The other 

 

 

 

 

Indefinite Pronouns

Plural

 

 

 

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

(neg.)

 

any (count noun)

many (with a count noun)

all (count noun)

few

 

 

more / most (with a count noun)

some(with a count noun)

 

 

both / several / others

none¹

¹none is more commonly used with plural agreement (considered informal by some)

 

 

 

 

Indefinite Pronouns

Anyone / Any one

tackle box and fishing pole
 

 

Anyone / Any one

ALL

Use – everyone, anyone –  as an indefinite pronoun to refer to the group.

Has anyone seen my fishing pole?  (anybody)

Everyone is catching fish but me.   (everybody)

No one will help me find it.   (nobody)

ONE

Use – every, any – as a modifier to one to refer to the individual or a single item.

Has any one of you seen my fishing pole? 
Any one (pole) will work well.

Every one of you has caught a fish. 
Every one of the fish is big enough to eat.

None¹ / Not one of you is helping me find my pole. 

 

¹none is more commonly used with plural agreement

 

 

 

 

 

Indefinite Pronouns

Nobody / Anybody

 

 

 

Negative / Positive "polarity"

NOBODY

Use nobody as the subject of a positive statement. anybody = anyone 

POSITIVE VERB

Nobody fishes on the bridge after sunset.

 

NEGATIVE VERB OR A QUESTION

Nobody doesn't fish on the bridge after sunset.

*I have never seen nobody fishing after sunset.

*Not nobody fishes after sunset.

*Hardly nobody fishes asfter sunset.

Can nobody fish after sunset?

ANYBODY

Use anybody  when it is not necessary to say 'how many'. Use any after a negative verb or in a question. 

POSITIVE VERB OR A QUESTION

Anybody can fish if he/she/they want to.    

I have never seen anybody fishing after sunset.

Not anyone fishes after sunset.

Hardly anybody fishes after six o'clock.

Can anybody fish after sunset?

NEGATIVE VERB OR A QUESTION

*Anybody can't fish if they want to. 

 

*not used
Anybody alone does not have a negative meaning.  It is only negative when used with not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone—their

Possessive refers to subject

 

 

 

Everyone's Problem - Gender Neutral Phrasing

PROBLEM 

Although everyone is singular, it may may include a group of individuals, some of which are male and others female. Because English is not blessed with a gender neutral singular possessive pronoun, people often use their when referring back to the subject. See Gender & Pronouns.

Everyone had their hat.
The pronoun and noun do not agree in number.

Everyone must file his income tax by April 15.
Only men have to file their taxes? 

 

 
SOLUTIONS

Some strategies that people use include: mentioning both possessive pronouns his or her (cumbersome), using 'slash' forms his/her, s/he or s(he) (awkard), or rewording the sentence to plural, which can result in All the people washed their feet (confusing).

Everyone had his hat.  Use "his" for both genders - formal but awkward.

Everyone had her hat.   Specify gender for all females.  

Everyone had their hats. (informal and commonly used)   See Gender Agreement.

Everyone must file his or her income tax by April 15. .

 

Soanes, Catherine. "Faceoff: ‘he’, ‘he or she’, ‘he/she’, ‘s/he’ versus ‘they". OxfordWords blog. Oxford Dictionaries. 6 June 2012. Web. 30 Oct 2014. <http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/06/he-or-she-versus-they/>.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone

Possessive refers to others

chips

 

 

Pronoun Reference

REFERS TO SELF

In some cases, the indefinite pronoun refers to the same person as the subject (agent) in the sentences.

Everyone took his potato chips. (Every person had his own personal bag.)

 

 

 

 

REFERS TO ANOTHER OR OTHERS

In other cases, the indefinite pronoun refers to a person or persons other than the subject (agent) in the sentence.

Everyone took my potato chips. (Every person took my personal chips.)

Everyone took their potato chips.(Every person took chips from  another group.)

Everyone took our potato chips. (Every person took chips belonging to us.)

Everyone took his potato chips. (Every person took chips belonging to another guy.)

Everyone took her potato chips. (Every person took chips belonging to another woman.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indefinite-Pronoun

Quantity-Phrase Agreement

 

 

 

INDEF PRONOUN -– POSSESSIVE PRONOUN

A singular pronoun is used when the indefinite pronoun refers to itself and is a single person or item.

Everyone   has his pole.
    indefinite pronoun matches possessive

Each           has his hat on.

One            caught her first fish.

Each           brought his own lunch.

Another     caught his limit

Everybody has her hopes high. (if all are females)

Nobody      has his pole ready.               

None          has eggs in its body.  (a fish)

EXPRESSION OF QUANTITY –POSSESSIVE PRONOUN

A plural pronoun is used when the indefinite pronoun refers to itself and more than one person or item.  The pronoun agrees with closest noun in the quantity phrase.

All of the fishermen  fry their (own) fish for dinner.
                     indefinite pronoun matches possessive

Some of  us  invite our wives on trips. (refers to the individuals)

Some of the group  likes its organization. (refers to the group)

Some of  the group  like their privacy. (refers to the individuals)

Half of  you   catch your "limit".

Ten percent of the fish  have old hook marks on their mouths.

None of  the fish   had eggs in their bodies.

A number of the fishermen  were proud of their catches.

 

Also see:  Quantity Phrases  | Another / The other

 

 

 

 

 

 

Impersonal Pronouns

One — You / They

 

 

 

One → You & They

YOU / ONE

You is used informally in place of one when making general statements— talking about anyone, at any time. You is directed to the listener. It does not include the speaker. You is informal when used as an impersonal pronoun.

You should exercise your dog

Your dog should get plenty of exercise.

One  should exercise one's dog.

One's dog should get plenty of exercise.

 
THEY  / THOSE PEOPLE (NOT US)

They is used informally in place of naming people or a group.  It refers to a vague group in another place, neighborhood (others), or to the authorities in charge. Using they instead of we distances the person from the group.

They don't like dogs there.  

Their dislike of dogs is unusual.

They say it will rain tomorrow.

Their prediction is for rain tomorrow.

They are raising taxes.

Their tax-hike is unacceptable.  (hike - rise)

 

One is often used in general statements when we are talking about anyone, at any time. One includes the speaker and the listener.  It is more formal than you.

 * not used / ~ requires context to understand the meaning

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*I met new someone.

*I met some new one.

Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee. (commercial ad)

 

He's a nobody.  He's a real nowhere man.  (Beatles)

expression—a person of little substance and without direction in life

I'm not nobody! informal expression

SOLUTION

I met someone new .

A modifier is placed after the indefintie pronoun.  See "unbreakable words".

Nobody likes Sara Lee.

The double negative adds emphasis and attracts attention; however, it is informal for business and academic English.

He's nobody.  not important or not relevant to the conversation

An article is not normally used.

I am somebody!

I am  not unimportant. I exist! 

 

*not used, incorrect

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

At the Gym

spinning

 

Which indefinite pronoun can be used in the sentence?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 1-8" button at the bottom, or click the "check" button as you go.

 

1.

2.
weight lifting

3.
boxing

4.
dancing

5.

6.

7.

8.

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Bath Time

man playing with rubber ducky
 

 

Possessive Pronoun Agreement

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 1-8" button at the bottom, or click the "check" button as you go.

 

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Steve Jobs Resigns from Apple

Apple and Steve Jobs
  Feb 1955 – Oct 2011
 

 

 

Read for Errors

This generation's most successful business leader is no longer leading a business. With Steve Jobs' resignation as CEO of Apple, some are asking questions about the future of the technology industry.

A cruel disease is forcing the 56-year-old Jobs, who has done as much as anyone to transform the world through technology, to give up doing what he does better than anybody.

Jobs has been battling pancreatic cancer and other health problems since at least 2004, and has already taken three leaves of absence. Not nobody in the tech world is surprised by his departure, but everyone is saddened.

It's a sad moment for the Silicon Valley business world, which is losing his talents. It's a sad moment for all of customers who have been delighted by the products he gave to the world. And it's a sad moment for Steve Jobs and his family.

He has been one of the most influential leaders in the information age, continually pushing engineers to design consumer-friendly products. Everybody are familiar with his vision of elegant design and simplified features. You can pick up anyone of his products and be impressed by its design. Each has a look and feel that delights consumers.

The business world wonders if there is another who have the vision to carry on the Apple product line.  Tim Cook officially began as interim CEO of Apple. Every one at Apple hopes Cook will continue the vision of Jobs. However, the price of Apple stock dropped the day after Jobs resigned. Nobody doubts that the stock will rise again soon with the release of the next iPhone or iPad product.

Everybody who are making PCs, tablets, smart phones and cameras will continue to apply the lessons Steve Jobs put into the tech mind-set. But what of those brand new categories he didn't have time to dream up?

battle (V) – fight

cruel (Adj) – making someone suffer or feel unhappy

category (N) – any general or comprehensive division; a class

leave of absence (N) – a period of time that one is to be away from his/her primary job, while maintaining the status of employee

influential (N) – having the power to affect the way someone or something develops, behaves, or thinks without using direct force or orders

impress (V) – to make someone feel admiration and respect

mind-set (N) – way of thinking

pancreatic cancer (N) – an illness of a gland inside your body that produces insulin

resignation (N) – self-terminating a job

Silicon Valley – an area south of San Francisco, California known for semi-conductors and other high-tech companies.

stock (N) – a financial share in a company

talents (N) – special skills or abilities

transform (V) – change; improve

vision (N) – an idea of what you think something should be like (in development)

 

24 Aug 2011 — Adapted from SFGate.com full story 

 

 

Decide if each sentence is correct or incorrect.

  1. Select  "correct" or "incorrect". 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 1-8" button at the bottom, or click the "check" button as you go.

 

15.
This generation's most successful business leader is no longer leading a business. With Steve Jobs' resignation as CEO of Apple, some ones are asking questions about the future of the technology industry.

   

16.
A cruel disease is forcing the 56-year-old Jobs, who has done as much as any one to transform the world through technology, to give up doing what he does better than anybody.

   

17.
Jobs has been battling pancreatic cancer and other health problems since at least 2004, and has already taken three leaves of absence. Not nobody in the tech world is surprised by his departure, but everyone is saddened.

   

18.
It's a sad moment for the Silicon Valley business world, which is losing his talents. It's a sad moment for every one who have been delighted by the products he gave to the world. And it's a sad moment for Steve Jobs and his family.

   

19.
He has been one of the most influential leaders in the information age, continually pushing engineers to design consumer-friendly products. Everybody are familiar with his vision of elegant design and simplified features.

   

20.
You can pick up anyone of his products and be impressed by its design. Each has a look and feel that delights consumers.

   

21.
The business world wonders if there is another who have the vision to carry on the Apple product line.  Tim Cook officially began as interim CEO of Apple.

   

22.
Every one at Apple hopes Cook will continue the vision of Jobs. However, the price of Apple stock dropped the day after Jobs resigned. Nobody doubts that the stock will rise again soon with the release of the next iPhone or iPad product.

   

23.
Everybody who are making PCs, tablets, smart phones and cameras will continue to apply the lessons Steve Jobs put into the tech mind-set. But what of those brand new categories he didn't have time to dream up?