Indefinite pronouns & gender-neutral pronouns
The "other" personal
► Continued from personal pronouns
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!
Numbers, and quantifiers can also be used as indefinite pronouns. Examples include many, enough or plenty or all.
Exampleshe or she; but we can't use it either, as it is not a gender-neutral personal pronoun, but refers to an object.
- 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
- 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.
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