All, both, and everyone: How to use pronouns (2)

by Liz Walter

Judit Grosz/EyeEm/Getty
Judit Grosz/EyeEm/Getty

In my last post I looked mainly at personal pronouns such as he, them and yours. This post looks at some other common pronouns and at errors that students often make with them.

I’ll begin with the set most closely related to those we looked at last time – the reflexive pronouns myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves. These are used when the person or thing affected by the action is the same person or thing that is doing the action.

I bought myself a new phone.

Clara looked at herself in the mirror.

A common mistake is to use an object pronoun instead of a reflexive pronoun:

I bought me a sandwich.

I bought myself a sandwich.

Be careful with the spelling too – it is himself (not hisself) and yourself (not youself).

The words all and both can be used as pronouns. The most common errors are with word order when they are used after the subject of the sentence. The important thing to remember is that they must come before the main verb, or before the auxiliary verb:

They both bought a ticket.

They bought both a ticket.

We are all going to the party.

We all are going to the party.

Be careful with modal verbs – all  and both come after the modal verb and before the main verb:

You must all leave the building.

You all must leave the building.

I have written about some and any before. In this post, I focussed on their use as quantifiers, but they can be used as pronouns too, and the same basic rules apply. You can look at that post for more details, but the most important rule is that some is used in positive sentences and any in negatives:

There’s plenty of milk. I bought some yesterday.

I need milk and we don’t have any.

I looked in the fridge and we didn’t have some.

Use the same rules for the indefinite pronouns someone, something, anyone or anything:

I didn’t see anyone.

I’m sure I saw someone.

I didn’t see someone.

Another important thing to remember about indefinite pronouns is that they always have a singular verb, even when they refer to more than one thing or person:

Everyone is ready.

Everyone are ready.

As you will see from this post and the last one, there are many common pronouns that often cause errors. I’ve tried to pick out some of the most common ones, and several of my previous posts have touched on this subject. For example, for more help with much and many, see this post, and for pronouns used in relative clauses, see this one.

Let me know if there are any other issues connected with pronouns that you would like to know more about!

21 thoughts on “All, both, and everyone: How to use pronouns (2)

  1. Derek Middleton

    Please unsubscribe me from email notificaiotns for this blog. The unsubscribe link takes me to a subscription management page. I have a WordPress account but for some reason this blog is not listed for email subscriptions so I cannot unsubscribe.

    Derek Middleton

      1. Emil

        Good day Thanks a lot for the response. I have studied the article and have learned such a lot more than I have asked for. 

        Regards Emil D. Rivers 

  2. Loretta

    In the last paragraph “that you would like to know more about. ” should that be “about which you would like to learn more. “?
    The old ‘never use a preposition to end a sentence with. ‘
    Never mind me. Just an old Med Tech and Mac junkie.
    I LOVE your posts. Thank you!

    1. Liz Walter

      Ha ha, good question! Well, I think the style of a blog is relatively informal, which is why I used the former. The latter is certainly correct, but I’m not that type of very formal teacher!

  3. Danielle Fernanda cleto

    Hi. I would like to know how it works for negative and interogative sentences using all and both.

    1. Liz Walter

      You can say for example ‘Have they both bought a ticket?’ and ‘Are they all going to the party?’ You can also say ‘They aren’t all going to the party.’ However, we don’t use ‘both’ in negatives like this. You would have to say ‘Neither of them went to the party,’ Hope that helps!

  4. Cristina

    What about the use of “all”and “every” in sentences like
    Everybody was there.
    All the people tried to get in.
    When should I use “every” and when “all”?

    Thank you Liz. You’re great.

    1. Liz Walter

      Thanks, Cristina! Your sentences are correct. ‘Every’ isn’t used as a pronoun. It’s a determiner so you always have to use it directly before a noun.

  5. Pingback: All, both, and everyone: How to use pronouns (2) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Mar 01, 2017) | Editorial Words

    1. Liz Walter

      For interrogatives: Did they all come? Did they both come? But for negatives, we don’t usually use all or both as pronouns. We’d say: None of them came. Neither of them came.

  6. soar

    I’m a bit confused in the post of Relative Clause Who + prepositions Section:
    We can use who as the complement of a preposition:

    It was Cath who Ian gave the keys to. It wasn’t me. (who refers to Cath and is the complement of the preposition to)
    Isn’t the model sentence to emphasise on Cath rather than to define it?
    Hope to get your reply.Thx.

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