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Indefinite Pronoun Agreement

Grade 6
Aug 29, 2022

Read the following sentences: 

  1. Some students are using their laptops to take notes in the class. 
  1. A few books are placed on the table. 
  1. All students are attentively listening to the lecture. 

The sentences framed seem to make correct use of the indefinite pronouns. We know that indefinite pronouns are the ones that are used to refer to people or things in general. They cannot refer to a specific person or thing. 

When the antecedent is an indefinite pronoun, selecting the correct pronoun that agrees with it can be a little tricky. For instance, take the sentence; “Some students are using their laptops to take notes in the class. 

In this sentence, the antecedent so me , is rightly replaced by the plural pronoun their.  But when there is an indefinite pronoun as the antecedent, people often tend to replace it with a plural pronoun like this. But that is not always the case. 

The cornerstone rule to be followed for indefinite pronoun antecedent is: 

“Singular indefinite pronouns take singular possessives, and plural indefinite pronouns take plural possessives.” 


Rule 1: 

Certain indefinite pronouns like anything, each, everybody, everyone etc. are always singular. They are also usually inclusive, i.e., they refer to both males and females. When the singular pronouns are used as inclusive antecedents, the pronouns used to refer to them must also be singular and inclusive, like; 

  • Everybody, who is part of the play, has to be thorough with his or her lines. 
  • If anyone wishes to meet the Principal in person, he or she must inform the class teacher in charge in advance. 
  • Each student has his or her name added on the list. 

Rule 2: 

When plural indefinite pronouns like both, few, many, several, some, etc. are used as the antecedents, the pronouns referring to them must also be plural, like; 

  • Both the options have their own advantages. 
  • Many of us missed our train because of the traffic block. 
  • Few of my friends have invested all their savings in this business. 

Rule 3: 

Some indefinite pronouns like all, most, none, and somecan be singular or plural. 

 These pronouns are usually followed by a prepositional phrase of the + noun that includes the noun to which they refer. 

 In such cases look closely at the nouns in the prepositional phrases. If the noun in the prepositional phrase is singular, then the pronoun should also be singular and if the noun in the prepositional phrase is plural, then the pronoun should also be plural like; 

  • All of the book has its  pages torn. 
  • All of the books have their  pages torn. 
  • None of the students did well in their exams as the questions were really tough. 
  • Several of the guests shared their experiences. 


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