Grammar Basics: Indefinite Pronouns

Before we actually delve into indefinite pronouns, let us solve a mini-exercise.
Read the following sentences and identify the correct word from the two options provided:
  1. Everybody loves/love Richard.
  2. Everyone is/are happy.
  3. Everyone brought his/their phone.
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Sentence 1: In the first case, 'everybody' (indefinite 'singular' pronoun) uses singular verb .i.e. loves, which is the correct way to use 'everybody'.
Sentence 2: Use the singular verb 'is'.
Sentence 3: 'his' or 'her' needs to be used with 'everyone'.
What is an indefinite pronoun?
An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to non-specific beings, objects, or places.
Examples of indefinite pronouns: all, any, both, each, every, few, many, neither, nobody, and none. They are indefinite pronouns as they do not refer to a specific, definite person.
Indefinite pronouns can be divided into three categories based on whether they take a singular or plural verb:
  1. Always singular: anyone, everyone, someone, someone, anybody, somebody, nobody, each, one, either and neither.
  2. Always plural: both, few, many, others, and several.
  3. Singular and plural both (depending upon usage): all, any, more, most and some.
For the third category, you need to identify whether the subject is singular or not. In the case of a singular subject, use singular verb else use a plural verb.
For example:
  • Some of the money is needed by Ram.
  • Some of the children are creating a raucous.
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In the first case, ‘money’ is an uncountable noun, and thus is singular in nature. We need to use ‘is’ in this sentence. In the second case, ‘children’ is countable plural noun, and thus we use ‘are’ in this sentence.
Keep these simple rules in mind, next time you see an 'indefinite pronoun'.
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