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 other words formed by the prefix 'some') refers to the existence of a thing or person. We are sure (assertive) 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 (assertive) of the existence of a thing/person.

Assertive vs. Non-assertive Forms

We can categorize indefinite pronouns into two groups based on whether they refer to specified things or unknown things:

Anything

'Anything' is used in negative or interrogative sentences to refer to any possible thing or any choice among a range of options. It implies that there are no limitations or restrictions on what can be chosen. For example:

Do you know anything about dolphins?

Here, the speaker is not looking for a specific piece of information, but refers to any kind of information about dolphins.

Do you have anything less expensive?

I don't have anything to eat.

Something

'Something', on the other hand, is used in affirmative sentences to refer to a specific thing or choice among a range of options. It implies that there is a limitation or restriction on what can be chosen. For example:

Let's do something fun this weekend.

I need something to eat.

However, it is possible to use assertive forms in questions that are not genuine questions. Either because we already know the answer or we are simply offering or suggesting something. We can also use assertive forms in a negative sentence to be sarcastic or imply something that we do not want to express openly. Pay attention to the examples:

Can I do something to help?

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 a pronoun used to refer to any possible thing or choice among a range of options, without limitations or restrictions.

Is there anything left to eat?

So, if you do not care what specific thing is chosen among a range of options, 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'.

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