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" vs. "Something" in English Grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

'Something' (or any words formed by the prefix 'some') refers to the existence of a thing or person. We are sure (asserted) of the existence of a thing/person, we just do not know who or what.

On the other hand, when we use 'anything' (or any words formed by the prefix 'any') we are not sure (asserted) of the existence of a thing/person.

Assertive vs. Non-assertive

So, based on this distinction, we categorize them into two groups:

'Something' and 'Anything' in Questions

In interrogative sentences, when we want to genuinely ask questions about a thing/person and we are seeking an answer, we use non-assertive indefinite pronouns. Because we do not the existence of a thing/person. This is the normal (or unmarked) way of asking questions in English.

Do you know anything about dolphins?

Do you have anything less expensive?

However, it is possible to use assertive words in questions that are not genuine questions. Either because we know the answer in our mind or we are simply offering or suggesting something. Let's see some examples:

Is something wrong?

Can I do something to help?

'Something' and 'Anything' in Negations

Typically, negative sentences usually take non-assertive forms. It is the normal (or unmarked) way of a negative sentence.

I went to the fridge but there wasn't anything in there.

Sometimes, using an assertive word in a negative sentence means the speaker is being sarcastic or is implying something that they do not want to express openly.

Somebody didn't pay their share tonight.

Here, the speaker clearly knows who did not share their pay but doesn't want to say who. That's why the speaker is using an assertive word.

'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 Do not 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 do not 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 is why 'any' is more common in questions and negative statements.


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