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Indefinite Pronouns

Perfect English Grammar

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Words like 'something', 'everywhere', 'anybody' and 'no-one' are indefinite pronouns. We use them for people, things and places.

People: somebody* / anybody* / nobody* / everybody*
Things: something / anything / nothing / everything
Places: somewhere / anywhere / nowhere / everywhere

*We can use anybody or anyone - the meaning is the same. It's also true for someone, no-one and everyone.

These are singular words, so we use a singular verb with them.
  • Does anybody want cake?
  • Everybody loves the new puppy.
However, we can use 'they / them / their'.
  • Anybody who wants cake should pass their plate.
  • Nobody brought their bag.
We can use these words on their own for a short answer.
  • A: What do you want to eat? B: Nothing!
We can use them at the beginning of a sentence as the subject or as the object of a sentence.
  • Nothing was done.
  • She did nothing.
Some- and any- We have already talked about how to use some and any. (See here if you need to review.)

We use someone / somebody / something / somewhere in the same way as some and we use anyone / anybody / anything / anywhere in the same way as any.

We use somebody / something / somewhere mainly in positive sentences.
  • We can find somebody who can help.
  • There's something in the bag.
  • Let's go somewhere this weekend.
We use anybody / anything / anywhere in the same way, but for questions and negative sentences.
  • I can't find anybody who can help.
  • Is there anything in the bag?
  • We didn't go anywhere this weekend.
We also use anybody / anything / anywhere with sentences that have a negative feeling.
  • There is hardly anybody here.
  • She ate hardly anything.
  • We spent the weekend at home without going anywhere.
We can use somebody / something / somewhere in questions when they are offers or requests or when we think the answer is yes.
  • Are you looking for something? (= I think you're looking for something.)
  • Would you like something to eat?
We often use anybody / anything / anywhere after 'if'.
  • If anybody would like a coffee, tell me now!
  • If anything is wrong, you need to phone the reception.
  • If there's anywhere that you don't want to go, please send me an email.
We also use anybody / anything / anywhere with the meaning 'it doesn't matter who / which / where'.
  • Anybody can do this.
  • I'd like to go anywhere! I just don't want to be here!
  • She was so hungry that she ate anything.
No- Nobody = not anybody. Nothing = not anything. Nowhere = not anywhere.
  • I don't know anyone who's coming = I know nobody who's coming.
  • There isn't anything here = there's nothing here.
  • She doesn't want to go anywhere = she wants to go nowhere.
Usually the sentence with 'no' is stronger and more emphatic.

We don't usually use a negative verb with nobody / nothing / nowhere. Sometimes you hear this but it's not standard English.
  • NOT: I don't know nobody.
Every- Everybody = all the people. Everything = all the things. Everywhere = all the places. These can be used in positive sentences, negative sentences and questions.
  • I think that she has been everywhere in Europe.
  • He doesn't know everything.
  • Do you know everybody here?
Try an exercise about the indefinite pronouns here.