Indefinite pronouns

(Using German indefinite pronouns)

Table of contents – indefinite pronouns

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Explanation of indefinite pronouns
  2. Declension of indefinite pronouns
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What are indefinite pronouns? How are they used?

Indefinite pronouns (in German: Indefinitpronomen) are a subcategory of pronouns and designate undefined persons, things, facts, and so on. They are very similar to numerals (indefinite number words) and often indistinguishable from them. Many—but not all—of the indefinite pronouns can be declined or inflected. Compare the examples and usage:

  • The following indefinite pronouns can be determiners (adjectival use) or in place of a noun (substantival use):
    • alle (all)
    • alles (everything)
    • anderer, andere, anderes (other)
    • einige (some)
    • etliche (several)
    • etwas (something) (not declinable)
    • irgendein, irgendeine, irgendeines (any)
    • irgendetwas, irgendwas (anything) (not declinable)
    • jeder, jede, jedes (every)
    • jeglicher, jegliche, jegliches (every)
    • kein, keine, kein (no)
    • nichts (nothing) (not declinable)
    • mancher, manche, manches (some)
    • sämtlicher, sämtliche, sämtliches (all)
  • These indefinite pronouns can only be used substantivally, which means they can replace nouns but cannot be their determiners:
    • einer, eine, eines (one)
    • irgendjemand (someone, anyone)
    • irgendwer (anyone)
    • jedermann (everyone)
    • jemand (somebody)
    • man (one)
      • Is indeclinable, can only be in nominative case and singular. See how to use ‘man’ in German.
    • niemand (nobody)
  • Examples of adjectival use, i.e., together with a noun:
    • „Sie haben alle Aufgaben erledigt.“ (They have completed all the tasks.)
    • „Wir brauchen noch etwas Mehl für den Teig.“ (We still need some flour for the dough.)
    • Manche Häuser heizen nur mit Solarstrom.“ (Some houses heat only with solar power.)
  • Examples of substantival use, i.e., instead of a noun:
    • „Wir alle waren daran beteiligt.“ (We were all involved.)
    • Irgendeiner hat mal wieder das Fenster offen gelassen.“ (Someone has left the window open again.)
    • „Frag mich nicht; ich weiß von nichts.“ (Don’t ask me; I know nothing.)

How are the German indefinite pronouns declined (inflected)?

Indefinite pronouns are declined as follows. The table shows the two tricky pronouns ‘jemand’ (somebody), ‘niemand’ (nobody) and the combination ‘jemand anderes’ (someone else) as examples because they regularly cause problems.

Example declension of indefinite pronouns

Grammatical case jemand niemand jemand anders
Nominative jemand niemand jemand ander(e)s
Genitive jemandes niemandes eines anderen (jemandes anderen)*
Dative jemandem niemandem jemand anders / jemand anderem
Accusative jemand(en) niemand(en) jemand anders / jemand anderen

* Usually the substitute form ‘eines anderen’ is used, as ‘jemandes anderen’ is uncommon.

Further explanations relating to ‘Indefinite pronouns’

The following explanations are related to the German ‘Indefinite pronouns’ and could also be interesting: