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Indefinite pronouns - Easy Learning Grammar German

What is an indefinite pronoun?
An indefinite pronoun is one of a small group of pronouns such as everything, nobody and something which are used to refer to people or things in a general way without saying exactly who or what they are.
  • In German, the indefinite pronouns jemand (meaning someone, somebody) and niemand (meaning no-one, nobody) are often used in speech without any endings. In written German, the endings are added.
CaseIndefinite Pronoun
Nominativejemand/niemand
Accusativejemanden/niemanden
Genitivejemand(e)s/niemand(e)s
Dativejemandem/niemandem
 
Ich habe es jemandem gegeben.I gave it to someone.
Jemand hat es genommen.Someone has stolen it.
Sie hat niemanden gesehen.She didn’t see anyone.
Ich bin unterwegs niemandem begegnet.I didn’t meet anyone on the way.
TipIf you want to express the sense of somebody or other, use irgendjemand which is declined like jemand.
Ich habe es irgendjemandem gegeben.I gave it to somebody or other.
 
  • The indefinite pronoun keiner has the same endings as the article kein, keine, kein except in the nominative masculine and nominative and accusative neuter forms, and can be used to refer to people or things. When referring to people it means nobody, not … anybody or none and when referring to things, it means not … any or none.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter SingularAll Genders Plural
Nominativekeinerkeinekeinskeine
Accusativekeinenkeinekeinskeine
Genitivekeineskeinerkeineskeiner
Dativekeinemkeinerkeinemkeinen
 
Ich kenne hier keinen.I don’t know anybody here.
Keiner weiß Bescheid über ihn.Nobody knows about him.
Das trifft auf keinen zu.That does not apply to anybody here.
Er wollte ein Stück Schokolade, aber ich hatte keine.He wanted a piece of chocolate, but I didn’t have any.
„Hast du Geld?” – „Nein, gar keins.”“Have you got any money?” – “No, none at all.”
  • The indefinite pronoun einer (meaning one) only has a singular form and can also be used to refer to people or things.
CaseMasculine SingularFeminine SingularNeuter Singular
Nominativeeinereineein(e)s
Accusativeeineneineein(e)s
Genitiveeineseinereines
Dativeeinemeinereinem
 
Sie trifft sich mit einem ihrer alten Studienfreunde.She’s meeting one of her old friends from university.
Ich brauche nur einen (e.g. einen Wagen, einen Pullover etc) OR:
Ich brauche nur eine (e.g. eine Blume, eine Tasche etc) OR:
Ich brauche nur eins (e.g. ein Buch, ein Notizbuch etc) I only need one.
Key points
  • Jemand and niemand can be used without endings in spoken German but have endings added in written German.
  • Keiner has the same endings as the article kein, keine, kein except in the nominative masculine and nominative and accusative neuter forms, and refers to people or things.
  • Einer only has a singular form and refers to people or things.

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