Realising that I was unable to define indefinite pronouns without looking it up, I decided to cover this subject in today’s blog. Pronouns are “a class of words that ‘stand in’ for other words” according to John Seely’s book the Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, whereas he defines indefinite pronouns as those which are less precise.
Looking up the word ‘indefinite’ in the Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus , two entries read: ‘not certain or determined’ and ‘vague and unclear’. Writers use indefinite pronouns when they choose to be vague about who or what they are talking about. I have listed the 20 that are printed in the Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation – you will see that they are all quite obvious words.
“Some, someone, somebody, something, any, anyone, anybody, anything, none, no one, nobody, nothing, everyone, everybody, everything, all, either, neither, both and each.”
The word ‘several’ is another one, which is given as an example in the book The Queen’s English by Bernard C Lamb. Do you agree, they are all very vague words? These words are in contrast to the precise pronouns such as I, me, you, he, she, etc. Here are some examples of the use of indefinite pronouns in sentences:
- Everyone is here now, so we can start the fireworks.
- My blogs can be read by anyone.
- She had several spots on her arm.
A point worth noting is that “many indefinite pronouns also function as other parts of speech” as explained by The English Club: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/pronouns-indefinite.htm. Consider the following sentences:
- If I drive my car to the party and another drives Mike’s car, we should have enough seats. (In this sentence ‘another’ is an pronoun).
- Another slice of chocolate cake would be good. (In this sentence ‘another’ is an adjective).
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John Seely The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA
Bernard C. Lamb The Queen’s English (2010), UK
Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus
The English Club: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/pronouns-indefinite.htm