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Indefinite Pronouns and Determiners

English has a large set of words which refer to indefinite quantities, or to definite but unknown people and objects. If they occur alone, they are pronouns, if they occur in front of a head noun, they are determiners.

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Man reading in Oxford Dictionary of English. Photo.

Here is a list of some of the most common. Their use is determined by slightly different rules. See below.

Much, (a) little, all, some/any, a lot, many, several, others, loads of, (a) few, somebody/anybody, something/anything, someone/anyone, somewhere/anywhere, nobody, no, none, either, neither.

  • Several cars had ended up in the snowdrifts. --- (determiner in front of a countable plural noun)
  • A lot of work had been put into the project. --- (determiner in front of an uncountable noun)
  • Nothing could stop him from trying. --- (pronoun)
  • I’d prefer some wine, please. --- (determiner in front of an uncountable noun)
  • There isn’t much hope of finding them. --- (determiner in front of an uncountable noun)
  • Have you met any relatives yet? --- (determiner in front of a countable noun)
  • No, I haven’t seen any? --- (pronoun)

English has double sets of words corresponding to the Norwegian ‘noe/noen’
Their use follows this pattern. Some-words are used in positive declarative sentences or when we expect an affirmative answer (yes) to an interrogative. Any-words appear in interrogative and negative contexts.

  • I left some of them for him to look at.
  • Has anything been done yet?
  • She’d never heard anything like it.
  • Do you know if anything has happened to him? (speaker is neutral)
  • Do you know if something has happened to him? (speaker expects an affirmative answer)
  • This is totally different from anything I’ve seen so far. (sentence is indirectly negative)
Last updated 01/31/2019
Text: Karin Dwyer Løken, Per Lysvåg and Hands On (NKI) (CC BY-SA)

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