English Grammar: How to use 5 confusing indefinite pronouns


Hi. I'm Rebecca from engVid.

One of the most important things when we speak a language and we want to speak it correctly

is to make sure that our subject agrees with our verb.

So, if we have a singular subject, we want to make sure we have a singular verb; if we

have a plural subject, we want to make sure we use a plural verb.

And most of the time this is something that you learn and you master.

But when it comes to pronouns, it can be a little bit trickier.

Now, with the regular pronouns which are definite pronouns, like: "I", "you", "he", "she", "it",


These are singular; and "we", "they", and "you" sometimes - these are plural.

So that's also quite easy and usually you know that.

But one area which can cause a lot of confusion to people who are learning English is something

called indefinite pronouns, and there are lots of them.


So, what I'm going to focus on in this lesson is five of the most confusing ones because

sometimes they are singular, and sometimes they are plural.

And I'm going to explain to you so you will know exactly what to do.

I'm also going to review some of the others and tell you when they are...

Which ones are always singular and which ones are always plural.

So, first of all, just before we start, let me just tell you that an indefinite pronoun

is what it says; it's not definite, so it doesn't refer to a specific person, or place,

or thing.


Let's get started.

Okay, so we have, here: "Indefinite Pronouns", right?

We have, as I said, three kinds; some that are always singular, some that are always

plural, and the five which we're going to focus on in this lesson which could be singular

or plural.


All right.

So, this is just to review these first.

So, which ones are always singular?

Things like: "Everybody", "everyone", "everything".

So, we say: "Everybody is here.", "Everyone is here.", "Everything is here."


We don't say "are".

Same with: "Somebody is", "Someone is", "Something is", "Is anybody here?", "Is anyone here?",

"Is anything here?" or...

And so on.

"Nobody", "no one", "nothing" - also singular.

"Each", "every", "much".

All of these are always singular.

So, you have to learn that.

If you're not sure, you need to review that, but these are always singular.


They're always talking about only one, so they are...

Even though it seems like there's a lot.


When we say: "Everyone", we're talking about, like, a group of people, so sometimes people

think that means it's plural, but it's not; it's actually singular.

So, you have to learn that because we're considering one group.

Next, we have a second category of indefinite pronouns which are always plural.

These kind of make sense, so let's look at them.

"Both", obviously we're talking about at least two people-right?-here.

So: "Several", which means many - this is plural.

"Both of them are", "Several of the customers are", "A few of the customers are here.",

"Many of the customers are here.", and "Others are here."


So, these indefinite pronouns are always plural - that's easy, and a little bit easier even

than this one.


But what happens when we come to these?

These five are a little bit more confusing, because sometimes we can say the singular

version, which is "is" and sometimes "are", or depending on whatever the verb is.

So, what are these indefinite pronouns that could go either way?

They are: "Most", "all", "none", "any", and "some".

So, now I'm going to explain to you exactly when they become singular and when they are


Okay, so the way that you decide with these five indefinite pronouns: "Most", "all", "none",

"any", or "some"...

The way you decide whether the verb should be singular or plural is based on what follows

these terms.


Let me give you an example.

First we're going to start with the easy example with countable nouns.

So: "Most of the book is interesting."

So, what followed the word "most"?

The word "book", and "book" is singular, so therefore we used a singular subject.


"Most of the book is interesting."

Not all parts of the book are interesting, but most of the book is interesting.


Let's look at another example with the same countable nouns, all right?

"Most of the books are interesting."

So, now, what follows the word "most"?

"Books", right?

What are we talking about?


So: "Most of the books" becomes plural, so we say: "Most of the books are interesting."


It's not that complicated.

All right?

It just seems that way, but it's really not.

It's pretty logical, especially when we're talking about the countable nouns.

The same principle applies when we are talking about non-count or uncountable nouns.

Now, if you don't know what uncountable nouns are, I'm going to show you in a minute, and

then I'll also show you where you can get a resource which we have on our website, which

you can download in case you want to review the uncountable nouns.


So, let's look at some of the uncountable nouns and compare them to the countable ones.

So: "Most of the furniture was expensive."

Now, "furniture" is what we call a non-count noun.


We can't count it; it's considered...

And because we cannot count it, it's considered singular.


The non-count nouns, the uncountable nouns are always singular.

So: "Most of the furniture was expensive."

Let's compare that to a countable noun: "Most of the chairs"- right?

"chairs" with an "s"-"were expensive".

See the difference?

"Most of the furniture was", but "Most of the chairs were".

You're getting it.

Same principle.

If it's singular, whatever follows this word, make it singular in the verb; if it's plural,

make it plural.

Let's look at another example.

"All of the food was delicious".

"Food" is an uncountable noun, so it's singular.

"All of the desserts were delicious."

Desserts you can count, and we're talking about more than one dessert, so it became


We chose a plural verb.

Next: "None of the equipment was delivered".

"Equipment" is an uncountable noun, so we make it singular.

"None of the equipment was delivered."

And: "None of the computers were delivered."


Here it was countable, here it was plural, and so we used "were".

It's not just that when it's countable it's plural.

Remember up here?

These were both countable, so then you had...

If it's countable, you had to check if it's singular or plural.

But in these examples, I'm just showing you the contrast.

Next: "Was any of his advice helpful?"

Now, here, because it was a question, it's not what came after the word "any".

In this case, it was what came before.

But here you see it.


Was any of his advice helpful?

"Advice" is uncountable, so we said "was" - it's singular.

"Were any of his ideas helpful?"


So, here, it was "ideas", and "ideas" is plural and we can count it, so we had to use a plural


Let's look at the last example.

And I hope you're still with me.

You've got it.

It's the same principle in every example.

"Some of the information is important."


"Information" is something we cannot count, so it's considered singular.

"Some of the information is important."

And: "Some of the lectures are important".

"Lectures", we could count; it's plural, so we used a plural verb.


Did you understand the principle?

Because if you've got the principle, then you can apply it; it doesn't matter - whatever

situation or whatever context you're talking about, you'll be able to apply it and you

will know whether to say...

For these indefinite pronouns, whether to use a singular verb or a plural verb.

For which ones?

"Most", "all", "none", "any", and "some".

And we're going to practice exactly how to do that in just a second.

So, let's do this.

Number one: "Some of the students _______ absent."

"is" absent or: "Some of the students are absent"?

In all of these, you have to decide whether to use "is" or "are".


So, what do we say?

"Some of the students"-tell me-"are absent".

Now, how did we decide that?

Because the word that came after "some" was "students"; and in this case it was "students",


Plural, so we had to use a plural verb.

"Some of the students are absent."

Next: "Most of my homework _______ finished."

So, what do we say?

"Most of my homework"-what is it?-"is finished".


Because "homework" is one of those uncountable nouns, which is always singular.


"_______ any of your luggage missing?"

So, do we say: "Is any of your luggage missing?" or "Are any of your luggage missing?"

We say...

Tell me.

"Is any of your luggage missing?"

All right?

Because "luggage" is another uncountable noun.

If it was "suitcases", then we could have said: "Are any of your suitcases missing?"

All right?

Because "suitcases" we can count, and that is plural.

Next, number four...


"None of the players _______ injured."

What should it be?

"None of the players are injured."


"Players", right?

So it's plural, so our verb has to be plural.

Number five: "All learning _______ useful."

So, what should we say? "is" or "are"?

"All learning is useful."


"Learning" is also something we cannot count.

"_______ any of my answers incorrect?"

So, should we say: "Is any of my answers" or "Are any of my answers?"

Because it's "answers", so we have to say: "Are".


Very good.

Number seven: "Some rice _______ fragrant."

What does "fragrant" mean?

"Fragrant" means that it smells nice.

"Some rice is" or "Some rice are"?

"Some rice is fragrant".

"Rice" is also something we cannot count, so it's non-count.

Very good.

Number eight: "None of the material _______ useful."

"is useful" or "are useful"?

"None of the material is useful", because again, we cannot count the material; it's

a non-count noun.

Number nine: "Most shows _______ a waste of time."

"Most shows is a waste of time" or "Most shows are"?

"Most shows", has an "s" here, big clue - right?

"Most shows are a waste of time."

And number 10: "All your friends _______ safe."

"is safe" or "All your friends are safe"?

What should we say?

"All your friends are safe." Okay?

And that's good news; very good news.

Now, what can we do after this?

What can you do after this?

To really, really learn this part, because you've spent time watching this video, right?

Now you want to master this and take it with you for the rest of your life.

So, there are a few things you can do.

First, go to my website...

Go to our website-sorry-at www.engvid.com; there, you can do a quiz on this and reinforce,

and review, make sure that you've really understood it.

Second, while you're at the website, go to the resource section; and there, you can download

a page which I've written about countable and uncountable nouns, because knowing those

will help you to know these indefinite pronouns correctly and use them properly.


And last, make sure to click on the "Subscribe" button so you can keep getting lessons that

help you to improve your English quickly and easily. Okay?

All the best with your English. Thanks for watching. Bye.