L13: Indefinite Pronouns

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L13: Indefinite Pronouns

Post by Peter »

INDEFINITE PRONOUNS (Pronomi indefiniti)

These pronouns, of which there are a considerable number, relate to someone or something without being specific. They include:

uno/a one, a man, a woman
qualcuno/a someone, somebody, anyone, anybody
nessuno/a no-one, nobody, anyone, anybody
ognuno/a each one
chiunque anyone, whoever
qualcosa something, anything
alcuni, alcune (di) some (of), any (of)
altro/a/i/e another, others
niente, nulla nothing
tale/i bloke(s), chap(s)
entrambi/e both



Obviously uno or una can only be used in the singular, as in the examples below.

Che bellissime mele! Posso prenderne una?
What beautiful apples! Can I have one? (literally: can I have one of them?)

Note the addition of the partitive pronoun ne at the end of the infinitive prendere.

C’è uno che vuole parlare con Lei, Signora
There is a man who wishes to talk to you, Madam.

Non ho mai incontrato una come lei
I have never met a woman like her.


Qualcuno/a can also be used only in the singular. It is often used with che to form someone who, as in the following example:

C’è qualcuno qui che riesce ad aiutarmi?
Is there someone here who can help me?

However, as in English it is also used in different contexts, such as:

Ho bisogno di qualcuno sul quale riesco a contare
I need someone (on whom) I can trust

C’è qualcuno con quale posso condividere tutto questo lavoro?
Is there someone with whom I can share all this work?

Note the optional use of the relative pronouns on whom in the English in the first example, whilst with whom is necessary in both Italian and English.

Devo incontrare qualcuno alle tre
I have to meet someone at three o’clock


This is invariably singular. In positive phrases it means no-one or nobody, or just none. However, in negative phrases it means anyone or anybody; it is simply rank bad English grammar to say I don’t know nobody! In negative phrases remember that non goes before the verb.

Non conosco nessuno qui
I don’t know anyone here

Nessuno si è piaciuto quello che aveva a dire il Primo Ministro
Nobody liked what the Prime Minister had to say


Ognuno nel gruppo ha la sua responsibilità specifica
Each one in the team has their (or his/her) own specific responsibility.

Note that in Italian you should use the singular sua and not the plural loro, whilst in English it is common to see the singular (each one, everyone) and plural (their) used.

C’erano tante fotografie che dovevo dare ad ognuna un numero serie diverso
There were so many photographs that I had to give each one a different identification number.


This is only used in respect of people, never animals or things, and is invariable, ie it has no plural although it may refer to more than one person. When used in a relative sentence or clause, it takes the subjunctive mood of the verb to which it relates. You can find out more about the subjunctive mood under Verbs.

Chiunque sia, può andare via
Whoever it is, they (he/she) can go away

See the note above relating to ognuno.


This refers to things, not people or animals. It too is invariable. Note that it is considered masculine, despite cosa (thing) being feminine.

C’è qualcosa che ho dimenticato
There is something that I have forgotten

Non è qualcosa che voglio ricordare
It is not something I want to remember

"C’è qualcosa per me?" "No, non c’è."
“Is there anything for me?” “No, there isn’t.”

When using qualcosa together with an adjective, you must use the preposition di.

Vorrei qualcosa di bello da succedere nella vita
I would like something nice to happen in my life

C’è sempre qualcosa di male che succede nel mondo
There is always something bad happening in the world

Dopo un tale lungo viaggio avevamo bisogno di qualcosa di buono da mangiare e da bere
After such a long journey we needed something good to eat and drink.


These are the plurals of alcuno and alcuna, and can be used as indefinite pronouns when referring to people. As is the general case in Italian, when you are referring in general terms to both men and women, you must use the masculine form, alcuni. You can also use this when referring to men only. Use alcune when you refer to just women. You will find that alcuno, alcuna, alcuni and alcune are also used as adjectives.

Alcuni pensano che io sia idiota. Forse hanno ragione
Some people think I am an idiot. Perhaps they are right.

C’erano ancora alcune che sono contente stare casalinghe e non vogliono lavorare.
There are still some women who are content being housewives and do not want to work.


This is used as a pronoun, either in the singular or the plural. In the singular it is used with the indefinite article un or una and means another, as in the following example:

Desidera un altro caffé, Signore?
Si, grazie, ne vorrei un altro

Do you want another coffee, Sir?
Yes, please, I would like another

Note that in the question un altro is used as an adjective.

In the plural it generally means others, often using the definite article i/gli/le

Mi interesse sapere ciò che pensano gli altri
I am interested to know what the others think

Altro can be used with qualcosa, to mean anything else, eg:

C’è qualcos’altro che posso fare di aiutarti?
Is there anything else I can do to help you?

Notice the elision, ie the final letter ‘a’ of qualcosa is dropped and is replaced with an apostrophe. This is something that often happens in Italian.

There are a few idiomatic expressions that use altro as a pronoun. Two examples are:

Senz’altro! Certainly!
Altro che! No wonder!

Niente, nulla

Again these are invariable. Where they are used after a verb the negative non must appear before the verb.

Nulla è più bello che stare in amore
Nothing is more beautiful than being in love

Non c’è niente che posso fare di aiutarlo
There is nothing I can do to help him


You will find this used most of the time as an adjective. However, it can be used as a pronoun to referring to an unidentified person. In this way, it equates to the English terms bloke or chap, and requires either un or quel.

Faccialo sapere quel tale che lo vedrò fra dieci minuti
Let that chap know I will see him in ten minutes

C’è un tale che vuole parlare con Lei, Signore
There’s a bloke who wants to speak with you, Sir


This means both, and therefore is plural. It can be used by itself, but is more commonly followed by di + either the subject pronoun or the direct object pronoun. You will also see it after the subject pronoun, serving as a form of emphasis.

Entrambe erano state buone amiche fino a quando hanno litigato l’una con l’altra
Both women had been good friends until they fell out with each other

Entrambi (di loro) vengono dalle famiglie ricche
Both (of them) come from rich families

Noi entrambi ci piace fare le vacanze in Italia
We both like taking holidays in Italy

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