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Video transcript

hey grammarians today I want to talk about the idea of the indefinite pronoun which looks kind of complicated but really just does what it says on the tin an indefinite pronoun is just that it's indefinite undefined uncertain these are pronouns that we use when we're not being especially specific words like any anybody each everyone nobody any time I need to remember what words fall into this category of indefinite pronouns I just think of the song everybody needs somebody to love originally by Solomon Burke and then later made famous by the Rolling Stones and the Blues Brothers so a cool thing about indefinite programs actually there are a couple number one they can be used as both subjects or objects in a sentence so if you said to me David do you want pizza I could respond yes please I love some using it as an object or equally plausibly I could say yes please some would be great using it as a subject another really cool thing about indefinite pronouns is that the words both neither and either retain the dual they are some of the only words in English that refer to only two things so these three pronouns are actually a little bit less indefinite than most indefinite pronouns because they refer to a set of two things so if someone asked me you know do you like mangoes or cherries more I could say I like both equally referring to the cherries and the mangos at the same time and this is really strange because in English this dual case doesn't really exist anymore except for in very limited amounts because English distinguishes between whether or not there's one of something and more than one of something but this is one of the very few cases where we ever distinguish between more than one of something and specifically two of something there are not a whole lot of words in English that refer to that so I think that's really cool the third cool thing about indefinite pronouns is that they're usually treated as singing usually so words like both neither and either are obviously plural but there are some that are a little bit fuzzier for example in the sentence nobody was home we use the word was the singular form even though that nobody could refer to multiple people or it's really referring to the absence of anyone similarly in the sentence everybody knows that I love onions we use the word nose just like we'd say he knows she knows it knows so that's the the singular form of that verb even though the idea of everybody would seem to refer to more than one person the the indefinite pronoun that we use to refer to everybody usually conjugate the third-person singular form of verbs usually let's get to one of the weirder examples though because sometimes the context can carry you along into something that might seem a little quote-unquote ungrammatical but really reflects the way that language is used today and so although you might say everyone you know is looking at me here's an example from Garner's modern American usage which is one of the several car-sized books I'm using to construct this grammar course everyone was crouched behind furniture to surprise me but I already knew they were there and you can see in the beginning of the sentence we say everyone was but then in the second part of the sentence we say they were and we're using they to refer to everyone so how can this be this doesn't seem grammatical but as garner says sometimes meaning rather than grammar governs agreement is this grammatical yes in that it makes sense does it adhere concretely end in an ironclad way to these rules that we've established no but language is kind of messy in that way sometimes the meaning of the sentence the the fact that here everyone refers to multiple people is going to override the rules that are previously established and that's what okay as long as you're making sense so relative pronouns are usually singular unless the context drags them into the realm of the plural so like their name implies sometimes indefinite pronouns can be a little indefinite all right here are the three cool things about indefinite pronouns number one they can be used as subjects or objects both neither and either retain the dual form which is super weird and number three indefinite pronouns are usually treated as singular usually I know that's confusing but I have faith in you you can learn anything Dave it out