Someone vs. Something

What is the difference between the two indefinite pronouns 'someone' and 'something'? Can they be used interchangeably?

Similarity

'Someone' and 'something' are both indefinite pronouns comprised of two parts:

  • some + one
  • some + thing

Difference

Someone as a Pronoun

  • Those indefinite pronouns made up of -one refer only to unspecified or unknown humans.

Something fishy is going on here.

Pick something you like.

Something as a Pronoun

  • Those indefinite pronouns made up of -thing refer only to unspecified or unknown things (non-humans).

Has somebody seen my purse?

Somebody's at the door asking for you.

Someone as a Noun

As a noun, 'someone' refers to an unnamed person we might or might not know.

Are you going to buy it for that special someone?

Those someones we were discussing were here an hour before.

Something as a Noun

'Something' as a noun can both refer to a person or thing of some importance. Remember that in this case it is used mostly in informal English.

She is really something! I can't believe she did that!

You've never met Adam. He's something else.

Something as an Adverb

'Something' can also be used as an adverb. It is synonymous to 'somewhat' and it means 'in some degree'.

It remains something of a mystery.

'Something' can also be used as an intensifier (intensive adverb) to put an extra emphasis on an adjective.

My back hurts something awful.

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