Indefinite Pronouns and Determiners in French grammar

What are les pronoms indéfinis in French?

Tout, personne, rien, chaque, chacun, and quelque chose are all examples of French indefinite pronouns and determiners (les pronoms et déterminants indéfninis). We use these words to speak generally about something or someone rather than mentioning a specific place, person or thing. They correspond to the English words everyone, no one, nothing, something, everything, etc.

Examples:
Est-ce que tu peux faire quelque chose pour moi?Can you do something for me? (general)
Est-ce que tu peux laver ma voiture?Can you wash my car? (specific)

Learn how to use the indefinite pronouns and determiners in French grammar with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises.

Example

Avant, Juliette aimait aller chez le coiffeur. Elle aimait se faire couper les cheveux par quelqu’un d’autre. Chaque coupe de cheveux était différente et toutes ses coupes lui plaisaient beaucoup.

Mais plusieurs fois, la coiffeuse a raté sa coupe de cheveux. Tout le monde s’est moqué d’elle et chacun lui disait que ses cheveux étaient horribles. Juliette n’a peut-être rien dit mais depuis, elle ne laisse personne toucher à ses cheveux.

Maintenant, c’est elle qui se fait toutes ses coupes de cheveux. En fait, elle a découvert qu’elle adore essayer diverses techniques pour se coiffer!

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How to use indefinite determiners in French

Indefinite determiners (les déterminants indéfinis or les adjectifs indéfinis) always come directly before a noun, they function as adjectives that modify the noun they accompany. Some indefinite determiners are variable: they agree in number and gender with the noun they are modifying. Such examples include: aucun, tout, quelque, quelconque, différent, divers, certain, n’importe quel.

Example:
Elle adore essayer diverses techniques pour se coiffer.She loves trying different hairstyling techniques.
Elle adore faire divers essais pour se coiffer.She loves making various attempts at styling her hair.

Some indefinite determiners are invariable, such as chaque, plusieurs.

Example:
Chaque coupe était différente.Each hairdo was different.
Chaque essai était différent.Each attempt was different.

How to use indefinite pronouns in French

Indefinite pronouns (les pronoms indéfinis) stand alone — they do not accompany a noun; they stand in its place. Some indefinite pronouns are variable: they agree in number and gender with the thing or person they are referring to. The variable indefinite pronouns include, for example: chacun, quelqu’un.

Example:
Chacun lui dit que ses cheveux sont horribles.Everyone tells her that her hair looks horrible.
Chacune lui dit que ses cheveux sont horribles.Everyone (only women) tells her that her hair looks horrible.

Some indefinite pronouns are invariable, such as personne, rien, quelque chose.

Example:
Personne n’a le droit de toucher à ses cheveux.No one is allowed to touch her hair.

Tout as an adjective, pronoun or adverb

Tout is used very often in French. It can be used as an indefinite adjective, an indefinite pronoun, or as an indefinite adverb.

Example:
Tous ses amis aiment sa coiffure.All her friends like her hairdo.
Tous aiment sa coiffure.Everyone likes her hairdo.
Sa coiffure est toute mignonne.Her hairdo is very cute.

As an indefinite adjective, tout always comes directly before a noun and agrees in number and gender with the noun it is modifying.

Singular Plural
Masculine tout tous
Feminine toute toutes

If tout is not placed directly before the noun (but is separated from it by an article, a demonstrative determiner, or a possessive determiner), it means “all” or “completely”.

Example:
Elle a acheté tous les accessoires.She bought all the accessories.
Elle a acheté tous ces accessoires.She bought all these accessories.
Elle a acheté tous ses accessoires.She bought all her accessories.

If tout comes directly before the noun, it means “every”/“each”.

Example:
Toute remarque sur sa coiffure la rendait triste.Every remark about her hairdo made her sad.

As an indefinite pronoun, tout always stands alone — without a noun — and means “everything”. In addition, tout as an indefinite pronoun has only three different forms: tous/toutes (for people), tout (= everything).

Example:
Tous aiment sa coiffure.Everyone likes her hairdo.
Les filles aiment toutes sa coiffure.All the girls like her hairdo.
Tout est parfait.Everything is perfect.