An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun which does not have a specific familiar referent. Indefinite pronouns are in contrast to definite pronouns.
Indefinite pronouns can represent either count nouns or noncount nouns. They often have related forms across these categories: universal (such as everyone, everything), assertive existential (such as somebody, something), elective existential (such as anyone, anything), and negative (such as nobody, nothing).
Many languages distinguish forms of indefinites used in affirmative contexts from those used in non-affirmative contexts. For instance, English "something" can be used only in affirmative contexts while "anything" is used otherwise.
Indefinite pronouns are associated with indefinite determiners of a similar or identical form (such as every, any, all, some). A pronoun can be thought of as replacing a noun phrase, while a determiner introduces a noun phrase and precedes any adjectives that modify the noun. Thus all is an indefinite determiner in "all good boys deserve favour" but a pronoun in "all are happy".
Most indefinite pronouns correspond to discretely singular or plural usage. However, some of them can entail singularity in one context and plurality in another. Pronouns that commonly connote indefiniteness are indicated below, with examples as singular, plural, or singular/plural usage.
|Number||Type||Negative||Universal||Assertive existential||Elective/Dubitative |
|Singular||Person||no one (also no-one), nobody – No one/Nobody thinks that you are mean.||everyone, everybody – Everyone/Everybody had a cup of coffee.
one - One might see it that way. See also generic you.
|someone, somebody – Someone/Somebody should fix that.||anyone, anybody – Anyone/Anybody can see this.
whoever[b] (nominative case), whomever[b][lower-alpha 2] (oblique case) – Whoever did this? Give this to whomever you wish. See also who-.
|Thing||nothing – Nothing is true.
none - Spare change? Sorry, I have none.
|everything – Everything is permitted.
Universal distributive: each – From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
|something – Something makes me want to dance.
this – This is good.
anything – Anything can happen if you just believe.
|Place||nowhere – This student is going nowhere fast.||everywhere – Spiders are found everywhere on Earth.||somewhere – "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"||anywhere – I'm willing to go anywhere.
wherever – Sit wherever you'd like.
|Time||when – When is the best time to come?
|Dual||neither – In the end, neither was selected.||either – Either will do.|
|Plural||others – Others can worry about that.||some/most – Some of the biscuits were eaten but most were still there.|
|Singular or plural||none – None of those people is related to me.[c]||all – All is lost; all are where they're supposed to be.||such – Such is life.
what – What is that? What are they?
|any – Any will do.
whatever – Take whatever you like.
English has the following quantifier pronouns:
Some of the English indefinite pronouns above have possessive forms. These are made as for nouns, by adding 's or just an apostrophe following a plural -s (see English possessive).
The most commonly encountered possessive forms of the above pronouns are:
Most of these forms are identical to a form representing the pronoun plus -'s as a contraction of is or has. Hence someone's may also mean someone is or someone has, as well as serving as a possessive.
Two indefinite pronouns can sometimes be used in combination together.
And they can also be made possessive by adding an apostrophe and s.