Can some indefinite pronouns be plural? One commenter on Mr K's Grammar World says they cannot. He also says the following examples contain quantifiers, and not indefinite pronouns.

  • Many have expressed their views.
  • John likes coffee but not tea. I think both are good.
  • I'm glad to say that fewer are smoking these days.
  • I'm sure that others have tried before us.
  • They say that vegetables are good for you.
  • All is forgiven. - All have arrived.
  • There is more over there. - More are coming.
  • Here is some. - Some have arrived.
  • The commonly used but nebulous they here is almost delexical. They say it's not as bad as they say it is. However, I can't see how it could be (or ever have been) a quantifier. Obviously, there's a quantifying / subset connection with all these except possibly 'they' (I take it the ' Here ' is a typo), but that doesn't make these words quantifiers, which are usually defined as determiners/determinatives, thus needing a noun group (many people / both drinks / sideshows galore). As tchrist says. Mar 28 '14 at 20:26
  • Very minor note: "Here is some" sounds wrong to me. I'd say "Here are some".
    – Alicja Z
    Mar 28 '14 at 21:10
  • @Alicja Z It's stand-alone in the above list, not connected to the 'Some have arrived.': _Can you find any sugar? _*Here are some. Apr 7 '14 at 8:47

Sounds like your commenter is from an earlier tradition of analysis. These days, amongst other determiners, bare quantifiers used in a context where a substantive is expected, such as the subject or object of a clause, are generally considered pronouns.

Certainly Wikipedia disagrees with the assertion that indefinite pronouns cannot be plural:

Indefinite pronouns, the largest group of pronouns, refer to one or more unspecified persons or things. One group in English includes compounds of some-, any-, every- and no- with -thing, -one and -body, for example: Anyone can do that.

Another group, including many, more, both, and most, can appear alone or followed by of.

Even numbers, which are normally thought of as quantifiers, can occur stand-alone in substantive contexts. I don’t know what you want to call those, but they’re definitely more than a mere adjective.


What difference does it make whether you call them pronouns or not?
It doesn't change their properties or their usage or their meaning or their syntax.

Go right ahead and call them pronouns if you like -- or call them quantifiers or determiners.
It makes no difference either way. It's just a name, not a description.
Definitions are for mathematicians; they are not facts, just presuppositions.
And, in the case of POS definitions, they are quite often incorrect presuppositions.

  • I find almost all POS taggers to be really lame, requiring too many convolutions in the rules for the syntactic analyzer. Please don’t mention Penn. However, if you scroll down to the table at the bottom of this page, you will see the plethora of “X-as-Y” type POS tags. That treatment seems closer to reality than the silly eight parts of speech that came down to us from Latin. Words are what they’re used as, no more and no less; outside of context, there can be no such thing as a POS in the first place.
    – tchrist
    Mar 28 '14 at 19:06
  • They've got different motivations. Rather like (and for the same reasons as) the total opposition of the Speech Synthesis/Recognition concept of a "phoneme" (the more phonemes you have, the better the sound fits) vs the Linguistic Phonology concept of a phoneme, where you minimize the inventory as much as possible, keeping only contrasting phonemes. What they call a "phoneme" in SS/R would be called "an allophone" by a linguist. I figured this out when I got suspicious of systems that were bragging of having 512 or 1024 phonemes; i.e, as many as possible. Mar 28 '14 at 19:12
  • 2
    Whoever downvoted this as being 'not an answer' should realise that questions based on questionable assumptions may need a critical response rather than 'an answer'. To take an extreme example (so extreme it would doubtless be closed): 'Is radiator a good preposition or a bad one?' And the stipulation that criticisms containing relevant sound analysis should not be posted as 'answers' defeats what I see as the purpose of this site, to enhance the understanding of, and skill in using, English. Apr 7 '14 at 8:57

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