October 1, 2014

Pronouns: Indefinite

Indefinite pronouns refer to an unknown or undetermined person, place or thing. Care must be taken to identify whether the pronoun is singular or plural to ensure the proper conjugation of the verb.

Indefinite pronouns that are always singular:

Some indefinite pronouns always take a singular verb, which means that the verb is conjugated for a singular subject.For example:

  • Neither of the doctors plans to solve Aaron’s injury with surgery.

In this sentence, NEITHER is the subject. Because NEITHER is singular, it takes a single verb. In other words, the verb is conjugated as if the subject is a single person: NEITHER PLANS. Just as we would write THE DOCTOR PLANS.

Always singular Another, Anyone, Anybody, Anything, Everyone, Everybody, Everything, Nothing, Each, Either No One, Neither, Nobody, One, Someone, Somebody, Something

[In the following examples, the indefinite pronoun is bold and the verb is underlined.]

  • Every season another of the players attempts to break McGuire’s record.
  • Whatever anyone says about Clinton’s veracity about his private life, when it came to the economy he absolutely kept his word.
  • Someone on Gore’s staff mumbles that Tipper isn’t feeling well and that the Vice President has to take her home.  
  • Another is that Bill Clinton seems particularly unsuited to passively letting his last year slip by uneventfully.

Indefinite pronouns that are always plural:

Some indefinite pronouns always take a plural verb, which means that the verb is conjugated for a plural subject. For example:

  • Both of the divers claim responsibility for finding the treasure first.

In this sentence, BOTH is the subject. Because BOTH is plural it takes a plural verb. In other words, the verb is conjugated as if the subject is more than one person: BOTH CLAIM. Just as we would write THE DIVERS CLAIM.

Always plural
Both, Few, Many, Several

[In the following examples, the indefinite pronoun is bold and the verb is underlined.]

  • Both have paid tacit homage to this new reality.
  • Many concede that the party had to change.
  • A few make the same point but much more forcefully. 
  • Several of the bills that he signed contain provisions he abhorred but promised to fix.

Indefinite pronouns that may be singular or plural:

Some of them may take a plural or singular verb depending on the meaning. For example:

  • Some of the money remains unclaimed.

In this sentence, SOME is the subject and the object of the preposition MONEY indicates whether the verb should be singular or plural. Because MONEY in this sentence is a single unit, the verb is singular. SOME REMAINS.

  • Some of the children hide from the teacher.

In this sentence, SOME is the subject and the object of the preposition CHILDREN indicates whether the verb should be singular or plural. Because CHILDREN in this sentence is plural, the verb is plural.

Either plural or singular
All, Most, None, Some
  • All of the traditional groups we count on to re-elect us are against NAFTA.
  • Almost all of the money in the budget is being diverted from those programs.
  • None of the ways of looking at a President’s legacy is simple.
  • It would seem as if none of the relief supplies were actually delivered.
  • Some of the pundits say that Bush is in danger of being made into Dan Quayle.
  • Experts believe some of the negative campaigning appears to have run its course.

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