Grammar Mishaps: Something vs. Anything

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					                                                                                                                  20/09/2011 03:37
                                                                                                                            by Robin

                Grammar Mishaps: Something vs. Anything

                rate or flag this pageTweet                               «Anything» implies that the noun is infinite but
                                                                          this is somewhat unrealistic so it is implied that
                       Hub Request: What is the                           there is a larger set of possibilities than with
                 distinction between something and                        «something»; it is not selective.
                              anything?                                   Imagine an entire class of students eligible to go on
                                                                          an honorary field trip. If you would take «some» of
                It’s easiest to first look at the definitions of «some»   the students, you are implying that not all of them
                and «any»:                                                are acceptable. If you would take «any» of the stu-
                                                                          dents, you are implying that every student would
                Some: An unspecified number or quantity                   be eligible.

                Any: to any degree or extent; one, some, every, or        For example:
                all without specification
                                                                              • I asked her if there was something she
                            Definition: Anything                                would like to donate. (This implies that
                                                                                there are possibly things that you don’t
                Anything (pronoun): Any object, occurrence, or                  want donated.)
                matter whatever.                                              • I asked her if there was anything that she
                                                                                would like to donate. (This implies that you
                   • Do you have anything you’d like to say?                    would take an infinite number of dona-
                   • I will have anything to eat.                               tions.)
                                                                              • She would do anything for her children.
                           Definition: Something                                (This implies that she loves her children so
                                                                                much there is nothing she wouldn’t do for
                Something (pronoun): An indeterminate or uns-                   them.)
                pecified thing, amount or extent                              • She would do something for her children.
                                                                                (This implies that her children aren’t as
                   • We all remembered something of their visit.                important as other things.)
                   • She was a biology teacher, but she knew
                     something about physics.                             It is common for «something» to be used in the af-
                                                                          firmative and sometimes when asking a question
                           What is the difference?                        with the expectation of a positive response. This

                                                                          is not a firm rule, just be aware of the context.
                «Something» implies that the noun in question is
                finite; is used when there are fewer possibilities;           • She bought something at the flea market.
                and is selective.                                             • Would you give him something to do?
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                                                                                                                    20/09/2011 03:37

                Grammar Mishaps: Something vs. Anything

                It is common for «anything» to be used in the
                negative or interrogative and more commonly
                than»something» with questions.

                   • He didn’t want anything to do with those
                   • Is there anything that I can get you? (You
                     can also say, «Is there something that I can
                     get you,» but using «anything» sounds a bit
                     more polite.)

                     Anyone/Anytime vs. Someone/
                «Anyone» , «someone» , «anytime», and «sometime»
                use the same basic rules. «Someone/sometime»
                imply finite possibilities where «anyone/anytime»
                imply infinite possibilities.

                   • I would like to take someone to the dance.
                     (This implies there are limits to whom I
                     would take to the dance.)
                   • I would take anyone to the dance. (This is
                     a bit more desperate; I would be willing to
                     take an infinite number of people to the
                   • Please come and see me sometime. (This
                     invitation implies a more finite timeline.)
                   • Please come and see me anytime. (This is a
                     much more open invitation to come at any-
                     time in the future.)

                                    Final Note

                This was a difficult question to answer. It is not really
                something I had ever thought about; I always use
                what «sounds» the best. I commend second language
                learners because the English language can be so

                difficult. If you have a better way of explaining this
                question, please feel free to leave a comment!
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Description: What is the difference between something and anything. A guide with definitions and examples.