Learning Better from Numerical, Indefinite, Universal and Reciprocal Pronouns


A numerical pronoun is a type of pronoun used to express numbers; singulars or plurals. A numerical pronoun includes cardinals and ordinals. Study the diagram below.

                    Numeral Pronouns


                  Cardinals                                                                   Ordinals

One     Two     Three    Four                                  First     Second    Third    Fourth

Important Things to Note

  1. In the case of pronouns, a numerical pronoun does not qualify or modify nouns. It is used as pronoun. Consider the following sentences:

(i)         Two of the questions are difficult.

(ii)        Second of your suggestions will be supported.

  1. Note that both cardinals and ordinals can be pre-modified by the article ‘the’. Consider the following sentences:

(i)         The three of the story I told you are interesting.

(ii)        The first of the matters gives me great concern.

  1. It should be noted that ordinals should be used with singular verbs. Consider the following sentences:

(i)         The third on my list has a crucial meaning to me.

(ii)        First of them is mine.

It is incorrect to say:

(i)         ‘The third … have …’

(ii)        ‘First … are …’

  1. You should also note that except ofor ne, all other cardinals should be used with plural verbs. Consider the following sentences:

(i)         Five of the students fail the course.

(ii)        The two of the questions are twisted.

Don’t say:

‘Five … fails …’

‘The two … is

‘One’ should be followed by a singular verb. For example:

One of those thugs has died. Not ‘One … have died’.


1. With different examples, examine numerical pronouns.

2. With copious illustrations, discuss essential tips of numerical pronouns.

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The Indefinite Pronoun

An indefinite pronoun always shows a part of a whole and does not make a specific reference to any person or thing as occurred in personal pronouns.

Examples of Indefinite Pronouns

Any-types       Some-types                 No-types         Free-types

Anybody         Somebody                   Nobody           Other, Many, One

Anyone           Someone                     No one                        Some, Most

Anything         Something                   Nothing           Whoever, Much

Essential Tips to Note

There are some things you should know about indefinite pronouns.

1. (a) No indefinite pronoun should be written in separate parts. For example:

Not Any bod but Anybody

Not Some one but Someone

Not No thing but Nothing

(b) No indefinite pronoun should be hyphenated. For example:

Not Any-thing but Anything

Not Some-one but Someone

Not No-body but Nobody

Only ‘no-one’ can be written separately but it should not be hyphenated. For example:

No one is here’. Not ‘Noone is here’ or ‘No-one is here.’

2. All examples of ‘any-types’, ‘some-types’, ‘no-types’, ‘whoever’, ‘whichever’ and ‘one’ must be followed by singular verbs.

(i)         Anybody can go there.

(ii)        Someone has done it.

(iii)       Nobody comes to the meeting.

(iv)       Whoever/whatsoever wants to see me should wait.

It is wrong to say:

(i)         ‘Someone have …’

(ii)        ‘Nobody come …’

(iii)       ‘Whoever want …’

‘Anyone’ or ‘anybody’ or ‘somebody’ or ‘someone’ and ‘nobody’ or ‘no one’ are used in the same sense. For example:

(i)         Somebody/someone calls me.

(ii)        Nobody/no one was there.

3. ‘Many’, ‘some’, ‘most’ on the other hand, are used with plural verbs because they are plural indefinite pronouns. Consider the examples below.

(i)         Some of you are imbecile.

(ii)        Most of the students remain calm.

(iii)       Many of us have become well-known musicians.

It is wrong to say:

(i)         ‘Some … is …’

(ii)        ‘Most … remains …’

(iii)       ‘Many … has …’

4. If ‘any-types’ of indefinite pronouns functions as object, they must be preceded by negative verbs while ‘no-types’ of indefinite pronouns must be preceded by positive verbs. Consider the following examples:

(i)         I don’t want anybody here.

(ii)        I want nobody here.

It is incorrect to say:

I don’t want nobody here. The reason is that ‘nobody’ is a negative indefinite pronoun, so it does not require a negative verb again.

Functions of Indefinite Pronouns

Any indefinite pronouns can function as subject, object and complement of a sentence or a verb. Below are good examples:

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1. Subject of a sentence

(i)         Everything is fine.

(ii)        Whoever knows Bade must report him.

(iii)       Nobody told me.

2. Object of a sentence

(i)         I love everybody here.

(ii)        I don’t want anybody.

(iii)       Segun scored everything.                                          

3. Complement of a sentence

(i)         I am somebody.

(ii)        You are nobody.                             

(iii)       She is nothing to me.


  1. Define indefinite pronouns.
  2. Correct the following wrong expressions

(i)         Any one

(ii)        Some-body

(iii)       Nobody tell me

(iv)       Something have happened

(v)        Some of them is sitting here

  1. Analyse the function of indefinite pronouns.

 Universal Pronouns

A universal pronoun is a pronoun that shows the idea of ‘every’ wherever it occurs. ‘Every’ is the universal qualifier, but it is a pronoun when it is used with another word. Some of the words are ‘everybody’, ‘everything’, ‘everyone’, ‘everywhere’, etc.

Rudiments of Universal Pronouns

1. Universal pronouns are not compound words. So they should not be hyphenated and they should not be written separate parts either. Consider the following examples:

(i)         Not every-thing but everything

(ii)        Not every-one but everyone

(iii)       Not every-where but everywhere


(i)         Not every body but everybody

(ii)        Not every where but everywhere

(iii)       Not every thing but everything

2. Universal pronouns mentioned above are followed by only singular verbs. Consider the examples below.

(i)         Everybody wants easy life.                Not …want…

(ii)        Everyone needs money.                      Not …need…

(iii)       Everywhere was boisterous.               Not …were…

(iv)       Everything has become worse.           Not …have

Functions of Universal Pronouns

A universal pronoun functions as subject, object or complement of a sentence.

1. Subject of a sentence

(i)         Everybody looks fresh.

(ii)        Everything turned otherwise.                      

2. Object of a sentence

(i)         I love everyone.

(ii)        She eats everywhere.

3. Complement of a sentence

(i)         Money is not everything.

(ii)        Armed robbery is everywhere.


1. What is a universal pronoun?

2. Use the following words in sentences:

(a)        Everything

(b)        Everyone

(c)        Everywhere

(d)       Everybody

3. Correct the following wrong forms of writing:

(a)        Every-thing

(b)        Every one

(c)        Every where

(d)       Every-body

4. Form one sentence each for the following functions:

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(a)        Subject of a sentence

(b)        Object of a sentence

(c)        Complement of a sentence

  The Reciprocal Pronoun

A reciprocal pronoun is a type of pronoun used to indicate an action expressed by the verb given in a particular sentence. It expresses the interplay between two people or two groups in a given sentence.

Examples of Reciprocal Pronouns

                        Reciprocal Pronouns

Each               Either             Neither                       Each other                 One another

Important Keys to Note

There are facts to note in the use of reciprocal pronouns.

1. Note that ‘each’, ‘either’, and ‘neither’ are used with singular verbs. For example:

(i)         Each of those boys has left.

(ii)        Either of the two students has to go there.

(iii)       Neither of them attends the meeting.

It is incorrect to say:

(i)         Eachhave

            (ii)        Eitherhave

(iii)       Neitherattend

2. It should be noted that ‘either’ implies one of two persons or things or places and ‘neither’ implies none of two persons or things or places. So, don’t say:

(i)         There are many people here – either has left.

(ii)        Neither of the three students is around.

The sentences above are wrong because ‘either’ and ‘neither’ are not meant for more than two persons, places or things. Instead, it is possible these ways:

(i)         There are two people here – either has left.

(ii)        Neither of the two students is around.

The sentence (i) implies that ‘One of the two people has left’.

The sentence (ii) suggests that ‘None of the two students is around’.

3. It should be noted also that ‘each other’ is used to show that the number of people, places, things or animals involved is not more than two. But ‘one another’ is used for more than two people, places, things or animals. Consider the following:

(i)         Jide and Demola are fighting with each other.

(ii)        The J.S.S. 2 students are arguing with one another.

It is grammatically wrong to say:

(i)         Jide and Demola are fighting with one another.

(ii)        The JSS 2 students are arguing with each other.


1. Define reciprocal pronouns.

2. With relevant examples, distinguish between:

(i)         ‘Each other’ and ‘one another’

(ii)        ‘Either’ and ‘neither’

Author: Deola Adelakun

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