French Grammar Explained /

Indefinite pronouns

Are you coming to my French party?
Oh yes! I'll bring cheese and wine of course.
Great! That's actually a great start to today's topic:
Les indéfinis are either adjectives or pronouns used to express and nuance a quantity.
J'apporte quatre bouteilles de vin et une bouteille de champagne.
I bring four bottles of wine and one bottle of champagne.
J'apporte plusieurs bouteilles.
I bring several bottles.
What we call les indéfinis in French are actually used to give less details about a quantity.
That's interesting... but not really useful.
Why is that?
Because I always know exactly what I'll bring to a party, of course.
Okay, so let's look at another example:
À Berlin, certaines personnes sont allemandes, certaines sont françaises, certaines sont espagnoles, etc.
In Berlin, some people are German, some are French, some are Spanish, etc.
Do you still think you don't need les indéfinis now?
Mmmh maybe I do actually... Unless I know exactly how many people I am talking about.
Very good! Unless you know the exact quantity (of people, objects, grammes, etc.), you can use les indéfinis ! You'll soon notice that French people use les indéfinis very often, actually.
Here's the chart with the adjectifs and pronoms indéfinis. Notice that adjectives are used with a noun while pronouns are used on their own and replace the adjective and the noun:
Adjectifs indéfinis
Pronoms indéfinis
Chaque personne est invitée. Every person is invited. Chaque garçon porte une cravate. Every boy wears a tie.
Chacune est invitée. Everyone is invited. Chacun porte une cravate. Everyone wears a tie.
Quelques bouteilles sont vides. A few bottles are empty. Quelques verres sont vides. A few glasses are empty.
Quelques-unes sont vides. A few are empty. Quelques-uns sont vides. A few are empty.
Certaines filles sont jolies. Some girls are pretty. Certains cadeaux sont sympas. Some gifts are nice.
Certaines sont jolies. Some are pretty. Certains sont sympas. Some are nice.
Aucune pizza n'est vegan. No pizza is vegan. Aucun gâteau n'est au chocolat. No cake is with chocolate.
Aucune n'est vegan. None is vegan. Aucun n'est au chocolat. None is with chocolate.
Toutes les filles portent une robe. All girls wear dresses. Tous les garçons ont 18 ans. All boys are 18.
Toutes portent une robe. All of them wear dresses. Tous ont 18 ans. All of them are 18.
Plusieurs enfants sont grands. Several children are tall.
Plusieurs sont grands. Several are tall.
Does this mean I can use either one: adjective or pronoun?
Uh... why should I learn both then?
Well... I'll give you a tip here: remember that the French language doesn't like repetitions, so use les adjectifs indéfinis when it is the first time you are talking about something, and use les pronoms indéfinis to avoid repeating the noun afterwards.
Oh, that's a good tip! Merci !