Indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns don't refer to a particular person, place, or thing. There is a commonly-used group of indefinite pronouns formed from quantifiers or distributives + the words any, some, every, and no.

  People Places Things
All everyone
everybody
everywhere everything
Part (positive) someone
somebody
somewhere something
Part (negative) anyone
anybody
anywhere anything
None no one
nobody
nowhere nothing

Indefinite pronouns with some and any are used to descibe incomplete or indefinite quantities in the same way as some and any by themselves.

These indefinite pronouns are placed in sentences at the same place you would normally put a noun.

Noun Pronoun
I would like to go to Paris this summer. I would like to go somewhere this summer.
Jim gave me this book. Someone gave me this book.
I won't tell your secret to Sam. I won't tell your secret to anyone.
I bought my school supplies at the mall. I bought everything at the mall.

Affirmative statements

In affirmative statements, indefinite pronouns with some are used to describe indefinite quantities, those with every are used to describe completeness, and those with no are used to describe absence. Often indefinite pronouns with no are used in affirmative statements with negative meanings, but these statements don't use not.

Examples
  • Everyone is sleeping in my bed.
  • Someone is sleeping in my bed.
  • No one is sleeping in my bed.
  • I gave everything to Sally.
  • He saw something in the garden.
  • There is nothing to eat.
  • I looked everywhere for my keys.
  • Keith is looking for somewhere to live.
  • There is nowhere as beautiful as Paris.

Any and its pronouns can also be used in positive statements, with a meaning closer to every: "no matter which", "no matter who", or "no matter what".

Examples
  • They can choose anything from the menu.
  • You may invite anybody you want to your birthday party.
  • We can go anywhere you'd like this summer.
  • He would give anything to get into Oxford.
  • Fido would follow you anywhere.

Negative statements

Only the indefinite pronouns with any can be used in negative statements.

Examples
  • I don't have anything to eat.
  • She didn't go anywhere last week.
  • I can't find anyone to come with me.

Many negative sentences using the indefinite pronouns with any can be turned into positive sentences with negative meanings using the indefinite pronouns with no. However, there is a shift in meaning in doing this. The sentences with no pronouns will be more emphatic and imply defensiveness, desperation, etc.

Examples
  • I don't know anything about it. = neutral
  • I know nothing about it. = defensive
  • I don't have anybody to talk to. = neutral
  • I have nobody to talk to. = desperate
  • There wasn't anything we could do. = neutral
  • There was nothing we could do. = defensive

Questions

Indefinite pronouns with every, some, and any can be used in questions. These questions can usually be answered with a "yes" or a "no".

Any and every pronouns are used with true questions.

Examples
  • Is there anything to eat?
  • Did you go anywhere last night?
  • Is everyone here?
  • Have you looked everywhere?

However those can be turned into questions for which we already know the answer by making them negative. With these negative questions, the speaker is showing some annoyance. The answer he is expecting is "no".

Examples
  • Isn't there anything to eat?
  • Didn't you go anywhere last night?
  • Isn't everyone here?
  • Haven't you looked everywhere?

Some is only used with questions that we think we already know the answer to, and questions that are not actually questions (invitations, requests, etc.).  The answer we are expecting with these questions is "yes".

Examples
  • Are you looking for someone?
  • Have you lost something
  • Are you going somewhere
  • Could somebody help me, please? = request
  • Would you like to go somewhere this weekend? = invitation

These questions can be made even more definite by making them negative. In this case, we are quite certain the answer is "yes".

Examples
  • Aren't you looking for someone?
  • Haven't you lost something?
  • Aren't you going somewhere?
  • Couldn't somebody help me, please?
  • Wouldn't you like to go somewhere this weekend?

 

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