Grammar Basics: Indefinite Pronouns

May 13, 2006

These are singular indefinite pronouns:

each, either, neither, one,

no one, nobody, nothing,

anyone, anybody, anything,

someone, somebody, something,

everyone, everybody, everything

A singular indefinite pronoun takes a singular verb.

  • Everyone is happy.
  • No one knows what to do in this situation.

When a singular indefinite pronoun serves as an antecedent in a sentence, it must take a singular pronoun referent.

  • Everyone brought his book.
  • No one forgot her homework.

These are plural indefinite pronouns:

several, few, both, many

A plural indefinite pronoun takes a plural verb.

  • Both are acceptable.
  • Few are going to the party.

When a plural indefinite pronoun serves as an antecedent in a sentence, it must take a plural pronoun referent.

  • Both passed their tests.
  • Few did not understand their assignments.

These are indefinite pronouns that can be singular or plural depending on how they are modified by a prepositional phrase:

some, any, most, all, none (Use this mnemonic device: SAMAN)

The number of the verb or the pronoun referent depends on whether the noun is countable or uncountable.

When the object of the preposition is uncountable, use a singular verb.

  • All of my knowledge was useful during the test. (Knowledge cannot be counted: how many knowledge? This does not make sense.)
  • None of the cake was eaten. (How many cake? Cake cannot be counted.)

When the object of the preposition is uncountable, use a singular pronoun referent.

  • All of her work made its impact on her grades. (Work cannot be counted: how many work?)
  • Some of the water left its mark on the wooden table. (How many water? Water cannot be counted.)

When the object of the preposition is countable, use a plural verb.

  • Most of the words were on the vocabulary test. (Words can be counted.)
  • None of these sentences are hard to understand. (Sentences can be counted.)

When the object of the preposition is countable, use a plural pronoun referent.

  • All of the books were useful in their own ways. (Books can be counted.)
  • Some of my friends drove their cars to the beach. (Friends can be counted.)
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7 Responses to “Grammar Basics: Indefinite Pronouns”

  1. Robert Says:

    Regarding the proper usage of the indefinite pronoun, none, is “data” regarded as countable or non countable. For example, should the sentence be, “None of the data was collected properly.”, or “None of the data were collected properly.”

  2. winrow Says:

    The word “data” is the plural of “datum” and is countable.

  3. Carol Says:

    I think that you should add a quiz to the website! BYE!

  4. Hannah Says:

    I think this was very helpful since I forgot my textbook in my locker.

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  6. karen Says:

    What about this sentence? All but one of the books has been purchased by the library? Should the verb be has or have?
    What about this sentence? All but one or two of the members are her admirers. Should the verb be are or is?


  7. great post, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite experts of this sector don’t notice this.

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