Indefinite pronouns

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In grammar , indefinite pronouns (also pronouns ; German: indefinite pronouns ; also short: indefinita ) form a subgroup of pronouns . They can be used to refer to individuals whose identity has not (yet) been determined (e.g. someone ; they are then mostly analogous to the function of the indefinite (indefinite) article in nouns), or to indicate an indefinite number of individuals or . to a statement about the existence of individuals (quantification) (this also applies to the form of someone , furthermore: nobody, some, everyone etc.).

Indefinite pronouns can be grammatically singular or plural, often independent of the actual number of individuals intended (e.g. "none" in the singular and "none" in the plural both denote the number zero, cf. also everyone (Sg.) And all ( Pl.)). Some indefinite pronouns can even be inflected for gender ; even where this is not the case, Indefinitpronomina are often associated with the masculine (eg. as "someone of something writes") should be without this match with the natural gender of eligible individuals.

Indefinite pronouns of the German language

Depending on the grammatical school, indefinite pronouns are defined in a broader or narrower sense in German.

Differentiation of personal pronouns

In contrast to personal pronouns and generalized pronouns like one , indefinite pronouns cannot establish a referential identity , i. . e, they can not on one and the same speakers repeated within a text relate (with respect to the same speaker is using the same index "i" symbolizes):

Siei weiß, was siei will. (Referent der beiden Vorkommen von „sie“ ist identisch)
Mani weiß, was mani will. (identische Referenz der beiden Vorkommen von „man“)
Jemandi weiß, was jemandk will. (Referent i ist nicht identisch mit Referent k)

Indefinite pronouns in the narrower sense

Characteristic of these pronouns that their basic meaning nonspecific respectively with the prefix Somehow be amplified can; an exception is the construction who / whatever , which only functions as an indefinite relative pronoun in a subordinate clause . In the German standard language and colloquial language there are different forms, which are differentiated according to number and according to the category animat and inanimat . In terms of gender , it is noticeable that there are often no special feminine forms:

animat inanimat Plural
masculine feminine neuter
Standard language (any) someone (anything) (any) which
Colloquial language (any) who (anything
(any) one (any) one (any
relative pronoun whoever What ever ---

Depending on the context , the pronoun ein can also be understood as a numerals :

  • One of the cars is parked incorrectly. (Indefinite pronoun)
  • A car is parked incorrectly. ( Numeric )
  • He saw her drive away in a car. ( indefinite article )
Generic masculine

Some indefinite pronouns used as nouns have characteristics of generic masculines . The matching rules require in this case, although the Indefinitpronomina have no gender, the use of masculine personal pronouns:

  • who, anyone, man
    • who never ate his bread with tears
    • It has to be not made lucky you unable to enjoy it.
  • everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone
    • Everyone who participates is welcome.
    • Jedwedem, the brings his driver's license, attendance allowed.
    • any, of the army pulls out (4. Moses 1:32)
    • It appears as mutton, it compels everyone, which it encounters on it to ride [...]
  • none, some
    • She knows not, with the they want to exchange.
    • Some people know their goal. ( Milva )
  • like me, like you, etc., one of us
    • Your kind has never worked for his keep.
    • Ours knows his country.

For someone and nobody , the Duden grammar describes not only the generic masculine use but also a feminine one:

  • She is someone who doesn't give up easily.
  • The neighbor is not someone with the / of I can talk.

Indefinite pronouns in the broader sense

In a broader sense, some grammars also include the following pronouns as indefinite pronouns, as they determine relative reference sets and cannot establish an identity between several such relative reference sets:

  • the frequency pronouns keine- , some- and nobody
  • the plural pronouns some , a few , some , some (outdated), several , many and a few for countable sets
  • the pronouns a bit , nothing , much , (a) little for uncountable sets.

All pronouns which determine total sets do not belong to this class:

  • the frequency pronouns every- , every- , everybody ,
  • the plural pronouns all , all , both and all , which definitely establish identity between two countable reference sets, as well as
  • their equivalents for non-countable sets, everything and both . Examples:
Ich habe dir allesA sagen wollen, aber du hast nicht allesB hören wollen. (Referenzmenge A ist identisch mit Referenzmenge B)
Er hat beidesA gegessen, aber hat nicht beidesB vertragen. (Referenzmenge A ist identisch mit Referenzmenge B)

However, it is now widely accepted to classify these pronouns as quantification pronouns .

Must be Separate from deictic pronouns such as someone , something , solch- and -gleichen (z. B. like me ) that refer to contextual speakers.

If, on the other hand, the substantive character is to be emphasized, the following can also be capitalized:

  • She did not care about the many who disagreed.
  • He was still waiting for the one who should make him happy.

Indefinite pronouns in other languages

Latin indefinite pronouns

In Latin , the most important indefinite pronouns are:

  • quisquam, quicquam
  • ullus, -a, -um
  • aliqui, -qua, -quod
  • aliquis, aliquid
  • quidam, quaedam, quoddam
  • quivis, quaevis, quivis
  • quisque

Sometimes these are differentiated in noun and adjectival usage.

English indefinite pronouns

The English language distinguishes between the following pronouns with an indefinite basic meaning:

Singular Plural
animat inanimat
someone / somebody something some
anyone / anybody anything any
whoever whatever ---

French indefinite pronouns

The basis of French indefinite pronouns is the adjective quelque . Here, too, a distinction is made between animat and inanimat in the singular:

animat inanimat
masculine feminine
Singular quelqu'un quelqu'une quelque chose
Plural quelques-us quelques-unes quelques choses


Web links

Wiktionary: indefinite pronouns  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  2. Bernhard Baader: Collected legends and fairy tales from the state of Baden and the neighboring areas . 2015, ISBN 978-80-268-2642-2 , pp. 238 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. ^ Duden editorial office (ed.): Duden. The grammar . 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim, Vienna, Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-411-04048-3 , pp. 1001 .