Linguapress English Grammar
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Linguapress English Grammar

Indefinite pronouns & gender-neutral pronouns

 The "other" personal pronouns

Index :
Indefinite pronouns  Numbrs & quantifiers  Gender-neutral pronouns

► Continued from  personal pronouns

1. Indefinite pronouns

There are other pronouns in English that are similar to personal pronouns, and generally used like personal pronouns; these are words that are known as indefinite pronouns : they include words such as someone, anyone, anything, whoever, etc.
  • Someone told me you're going to New York next week.
  • I can't see anything.
  • Anything could happen !
  • Whoever said that was obviously not telling the truth.
  • Whatever happens, don't  tell him the answer !
  • I'll pay you whatever you want.... within reason!

2. Numbers and quantifiers used as pronouns

Numbers, and quantifiers can also be used as indefinite pronouns.  Examples include  many, enough or plenty or all.
  • Most of the people went home after the party, but three stayed to help clean up.
  • There were twenty melons in the box, but ten were  damaged.
  • Plenty was said at the meeting, but the directors couldn't agree.
  • He can talk complete nonsense, but many will still believe him.
  • It may be the truth, but few are going to believe a story like that.
  • Enough is enough.
  • All is not lost.
  • All you need is Love.

3. Gender neutral pronouns

Sometimes we need to use a third-person singular pronoun to refer to a person, without knowing if the person is male or female, or without wanting to specify the gender. For obvious reasons, we can't use he or she; but we can't use it either, as it is not a gender-neutral personal pronoun, but refers to an object.
   The classic solution in English is to use they / them / their as a singular pronoun : note however that while these pronouns can take on a singular meaning, they are still used in the normal way, as if they referred to a plural entity.
    Avoid using the sometimes-used "his or her" : this is not good style, even if it is just occasionally necessary.
  • If someone rings, tell them to call back later
  • If anyone tries to open the safe, they'll get a big surprise.
  • Each member of the committee gave their opinion.

Return to English Grammar index.  Return to Pronouns

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A selection of  resources in graded English
from Linguapress
Selected pages
Intermediate resources :
Mystery - the Titanic and the Temple of Doom
Who is James bond ?
Sport: The story of football and rugby
Big red London buses
USA: Alcohol, prohibition and Al Capone
USA: Who was Buffalo Bill?
USA: Close encounters with a Twister  
More: More intermediate reading texts  
Advanced level reading :
Charles Babbage, the father of the computer
Who killed Martin Luther King?
USA - Discovering Route 66
London's Notting Hill Carnival
More: More advanced reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Noun groups in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English

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