Anybody vs. Somebody in English Grammar

Are They Interchangeable?

'Anybody' and 'somebody' are indefinite pronouns that refer to people without saying exactly who they are. Here, we will discuss 'anybody' and 'somebody'.

Anybody vs. Somebody

Main Similarities

  1. Both are pronouns
  2. Both refer to an unidentified person

Main Difference

The difference between 'somebody' and 'anybody' is the same as the difference between 'some' and 'any'.

  • 1.1. 'Anybody' can be used in negative, positive sentences and in questions.
  • 1.2. 'Somebody' can be used in positive sentences.
  • 2.1. 'Anybody' means any person, it doesn't matter who (we don't know and we don't care).
  • 2.2. 'Somebody' means any person, but we might have some idea who but we don't want to identify (we may not know who but we have some clue and know there is at least one person we're referring).

Anybody

'Anybody' is a pronoun that refers to no specific person.
We use 'anybody' when we are speaking to a group of people or when there is no known person to refer to.

Does anybody have a question ? (interrogative sentence)

We are addressing a group of people and we are asking if there is a person or several people in that group that can respond.

I don't know anybody who can speak Portuguese . (negative sentence)

'Anybody' can also be used in affirmative sentences with a meaning that is close to every.

You can ask anybody ! (affirmative sentence)

Somebody

'Somebody' is more specific than 'anybody'. When we use 'anybody' we don't have any particular person in mind and we have no idea who that person can be. But when we use 'somebody' in some contexts we may imply a named person, but the actual name is omitted or unknown.

Somebody loves you .

Somebody should have told me .

The speaker uses the word 'somebody' to speak about a person without identifying them.

Sense of Hope

There's a subtle difference between 'anybody' and 'somebody' when used in interrogative questions.

When we use 'anybody' we're not expecting someone to answer us.
When we use 'somebody' we're expecting or hoping that at least one person will answer our question.

Is anybody here ?

Subconsciously, the speaker knows no body is going to answer them, therefore they're using 'anybody'.

Is somebody here ?

Subconsciously, the speaker knows somebody's going to answer them, therefore they're using 'somebody'.

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