Anything vs. Something

In this part, we are going to discuss the meanings and uses of 'something' and 'anything'. We will look at their similarities and differences.

'Anything' and 'Something' are generally used as indefinite pronouns. In other words, they replace a noun.

What Is Their Difference?

To understand the difference between 'something' and 'anything', first you need to understand the difference between their prefixes: some and any.

Some

'Some' is a prefix that means 'an unknown or unmentioned amount.' So, any indefinite pronoun that is created by this suffix has a meaning of an unspecified amount.

There are some people at my house.

The speaker doesn't know how many people.

He needs some money.

The speaker needs money but he didn't say how much.

Any

'Any' is a prefix that depending on the context can have various meanings, such as 'some', 'one', 'every', and 'all' .
There is some overlaps in the meaning of the two words "some" and "any" (as mentioned earlier, any can mean 'some' in some contexts). There will be sometimes when we can use either words without a change in the meaning.

Do you know any famous people? = Do you know some famous people?

So What's the Difference between 'Something' and 'Anything'?

  • 'Something' refers to a specific ineffective or uncertain thing.
  • 'Anything' can refer to whatever thing no matter what. It's usually used in negative sentences.

Something and Anything in Questions

'Something' is used more often in positive sentences, while 'anything' is often used in negative sentences.

But in interrogative sentences, they both can be used with a slight difference in meaning.

Subtle Difference in Meaning

When asking a question with 'something', the speaker usually expects a positive answer, while the one with anything expects a negative one.

Did you hear something about Kelly's boyfriend?

Here, the speaker is somehow expecting to hear the affirmative answer.

Did you hear anything about Kelly's boyfriend?

Here, the speaker is somehow expecting to hear the negative answer.

Look at some more examples. Compare the use of 'anything' and 'something' in these sentences:

Did he get you something/anything for your birthday?

Is there something/anything I can do for you, ma'am?

'Something' as a Noun

'Something' can also be used as a noun. It means a person or a thing of importance or effect.

That kid is really something! He's gonna become somebody!

When You Don't Care, Use 'Anything'

In the English language, 'anything' is used when we are not sure if the thing we are talking about actually exists.

Is there anything left to eat?

So, basically, when you don't care what a thing is, you can use 'anything'.

Do we have anything to drink?

The speaker is saying they can drink tea, coffee, water, anything at all. It doesn't matter what.

'Let's listen to some music.' 'You can listen to anything you want'.

Bottom Line

'Some' is about degree or identity, but the existence is kind of assumed.
But with 'any', the existence is not assumed.
That's why 'any' is more common in questions and negative statements.

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