Anyone vs anybody: everybody/ everyone, somebody/ someone, nobody/ no one.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Edher, Feb 9, 2005.

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  1. Edher

    Edher Senior Member

    Cd. de México, Spanish & English

    Are these two words also interchangeable (like someone/somebody)?

    Since "somebody" is more formal that someone is "anybody" more formal than "anyone"?

    Thank You,
  2. esme Member

    U.S.A- Eng, Spa, that order
    Edher, yes they are interchangable and yes anybody is more formal than anyone
  3. esme Member

    U.S.A- Eng, Spa, that order
    Edher, from my personal experience, I like to use 'anybody' in things like writing a college-level essay. I guess it really doesn't matter, but I do see 'anybody' as being a little more formal.
  4. Edwin

    Edwin Senior Member

    Tampa, Florida, USA
    USA / Native Language: English
    Here's one opinion that there is no difference in formality between somebody/someone and no difference in formality between anybody/anyone. Ditto for everybody/everyone.
  5. Cornfields New Member

    Bennington, VT
    English - United States
    To quote The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style:
    The two terms are interchangeable, so euphony governs the
    choice in any given context. In practice, anyone appears in
    print about three times as often as anybody.

    I would strongly suggest that this gap between written and spoken usage
    evidences the fact that anyone is the formal usage. In my experience as
    an academic with a PhD in history, and as an editorial assistant at an
    academic journal, anyone is the preferred usage.

    Google provides a useful, but informal measure. On .edu sites, anybody
    appears 313,000 times while anyone appears 2,170,000 times. The ratio is
    nearly the same for somebody and someone.

    I will not argue with Oxford, but to my ears anybody sounds rather
    awkward in polite speech. So, if "euphony governs the choice," I would
    suggest (from the perspective of an east coast academic for what it is
    worth) that anyone has a more pleasing sound.
  6. Tabac Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest (USA)
    U. S. - English
    The only difference I 'feel' is in the negative. "Doesn't 'anybody' care?" gives me a more desperate feeling. It may be the euphonic aspect as mentioned, as the 'b' can be emphasized in the spoken form.
  7. Cornfields New Member

    Bennington, VT
    English - United States
    I have one more bit of advice to add from the Columbia Guide to Standard

    is not necessarily a more polished choice than somebody; use
    whichever word makes the most effective, rhythmically satisfying sentence.
    The important usage issue is subsequent reference to these indefinite
    pronouns: both are singular and always take singular verbs, but each
    increasingly is followed by plural references, even though Standard English
    used to be adamant (and the most Formal Edited English usually still is) that
    it should be Somebody left his [or his or her or a] coat in the front hall or
    Your guests left their coats in the front hall. Now, almost everyone will
    accept Somebody left their coat(s) in the front hall.

  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Pardon me. What gap? The material you have quoted refers to a gap in print only. It doesn't say anything about a gap between written and spoken usage.

    Does frequency dictate register? That's news.

    I was once an East Coast academic. I fail to see how that makes anybody's personal stylistic preference especially noteworthy, whether I might happen to agree with it or not.
  9. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thank you, Cornfields, for more sources supporting the view that these terms are interchangeable.

    This is further supported by The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (1998).
    The earliest example of anyone as one word (rather than any one) is 1958. The 1711 example referred to in the quote from Fowler, below, is listed in the OED as two words, "any one".

  10. Cornfields New Member

    Bennington, VT
    English - United States
    You're welcome. And while I certainly grant C's point concerning a "gap,"
    I was (in my own words) providing evidence rather than proof. And I repeatedly
    qualified it as such. When we are dealing with something as tricky as "euphony,"
    I would suggest that frequency is an interesting (if in no way conclusive) metric.
    I think it is fairly safe to say that academic sites (by and large) adopt an authoritative
    tone. Written language tends to be more formal than spoken. So, while I have not
    been able to provide evidence of spoken frequency, I do think written frequency and
    the frequency on academic sites is suggestive. As for the inclusion of my own biography,
    I did it for a few reasons: A) Because your FAQ suggested identifying my
    perspective if I was not a teacher (and indeed I do not teach language) B) Because
    the question was one of euphony (at least for Oxford) and that very well may hinge
    on region, class, audience etc. I was hoping to stir up an interesting conversation
    on euphony (not assert some sort of snobbish credentials) and I was curious if my
    ear agreed with other ears on the site.

    Lastly, I provided a few direct quotes from authoritative sources to help the
    conversation along. I do think there is significant interchangeability, but if you
    carefully parse the Columbia reference, doesn't it imply (or is it simply refuting
    a commonly held assumption) that anyone is the more formal sense? To quote:

    "Someone is not necessarily a more polished choice than somebody"
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I can't tell, out of context. It may simply be refuting an unsubstantiated allegation.

    The relative frequency of the terms tells me nothing about their relative acceptability. Euphony determines many things for many of us.
    Is a more formal than an, for example, because it has three times as many occurrences in Google searches?
    "A is not necessarily a more polished choice than an."

    That's a very silly example, of course, but it may help to illustrate that relative frequency, alone, is not a guide to formality of use.
  12. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    True enough. They do so when they are correct and when they are not.

    I certainly agree with the first sentence. Google shows about six times as many occurrences of "want to" as it finds for "wanna". On the other hand, more formal terms are often not present in the active or the passive vocabularies of many natives speakers, so that the formal alternative may appear in print with lesser frequency. Consider "height" at over a half billion citations, and "altitude" at a mere 48 million. With the right choice of synonyms and near synonyms, one could make the frequency argument go either way.

    Is enjoyment a more formal term than pleasure? One is found in writing more than four times as often as the other.
  13. Cornfields New Member

    Bennington, VT
    English - United States
    A few points...

    First, the question of interchangeability. It seems to me that we are not
    simply discussing whether these words are synonyms as in the case of
    height and altitude (very rough synonyms at that), but basically whether
    they are one and the same. I like the example of a and an, but the
    rules seem pretty clear on that point, so it is really a question of grammar
    rather than euphony. Off hand, I am having a hard time thinking of another
    useful, analogous example.

    Your point concerning wanna and want to is interesting and suggests a test.
    Wanna is clearly more informal than want to, so let's do a google with
    these two and someone/somebody....

    "want to" and somebody: 4,160,000 hits
    "want to" and someone: 170,000,000 hits

    wow... a surprising gap of 40x
    Now let's use wanna:

    wanna and somebody: 3,600,000 hits
    wanna and someone: 5,160,000 hits

    a gap of less than 2x

    I would suggest that the closing of the gap with wanna... that is in relative
    terms the more frequent usage of somebody with wanna, suggests indeed
    that somebody may be the less formal usage.
  14. Cornfields New Member

    Bennington, VT
    English - United States
    C (rightly) distinguishes between tone and rightness when discussing
    academics. Of course, there is no way that I can judge the rightness
    of prose using somebody or someone. On the other hand, I can subject
    their relative usage to a test of grammar... how about a common mistake:
    writing greater then in place of greater than. I can state for certain that
    many many many students make this mistake. So....

    "greater then" and somebody: 48,800 hits
    "greater then" and someone: 1,180,000 hits

    the gap here is 24x

    "greater than" and somebody: 450,000
    "greater than" and someone: 17,900,000

    the gap here is x40

    so this little bit of googling suggests that in relative terms there appears
    to be a correlation between the use of somebody and the misuse of the
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2008
  15. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    The 'guilt by association' theory of statistical evidence of formality?
    Interesting. You may be on to something here. The breathless "wow...a surprising gap..." is a little too much of what I'd expect from a sports announcer, rather than a cold, objective statistician, but that data are what they are.

    Interchangeability? Let's consider three terms for human copulation, one of which is clinical and formal, another somewhat formal, and the third vulgar :warn::warn::warn: and very common in colloquial speech. All searches were for strings, rather than individual words that just happened to, errr... cohabitate in a web page.

    Before we add somebody and someone into the mix, let's see what we have for the
    terms of union. Going from most rustic to most formal:

    17,300,000 for "to fuck"
    ___541,000 for "to make love"
    ___267,000 for "to have sexual intercourse"

    I am not surprised by the relative positions (no pun intended), as I would have expected the more colloquial term to be used most in writing as well as in what google doesn't record, speech and text messaging.

    Now let's add someone and somebody, and observe:

    Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 264,000 for "to fuck" +somebody.
    Results 1 - 10 of about 2,220,000 for "to fuck" +someone.

    About an 8:1 ratio for someone to somebody.

    Results 1 - 10 of about 227,000 for "to make love" +someone.
    Results 1 - 10 of about 237,000 for "to make love" +somebody.

    Here the difference is inconsequential. For all practical purposes it's 1:1.

    And now to the more formal term:

    Results 1 - 10 of about 25,000 for "to have sexual intercourse" +somebody.
    Results 1 - 10 of about 116,000 for "to have sexual intercourse" +someone.

    The ratio is nearly 5:1 for someone to somebody.

    If there is a convincing pattern here, I am too tired to see it. The most vulgar term favors combination with someone by an eight to one margin, and the least vulgar term does so at five to one. What may be most surprising, and difficult to explain, is the apparent one/body neutrality of the standard English phrase, to make love.

    Further observations are invited.
  16. Cornfields New Member

    Bennington, VT
    English - United States
    Of course we are only assembling circumstantial evidence... but in a way
    we are also creating a sort of informal guide for when to use somebody or
    someone (if the goal is to fit in!)

    Take for example the now common press slur that Democrats are latte

    Latte and somebody: 160,000 hits
    Latte and someone: 1,760,000 hits

    a difference of 10x (slightly wider than the x7 gap without latte in the search).
    So... it would appear that someone users are also latte users.

    Now take a common press slur that people from Kentucky hunt squirrels...

    "squirrel hunting" and somebody: 696 hits
    "squirrel hunting" and someone: 140,000 hits

    Wow! A difference of 200x. It would appear then that when writing about squirrel hunting,
    if you want to fit in, you should use someone rather than somebody.

    Maybe those someone users aren't so highfalutin after all...
  17. Cornfields New Member

    Bennington, VT
    English - United States
    I will give this some thought... I am just being a little playful here. I do find
    the parity with "to make love" interesting. Thanks for the interesting post.
  18. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Remind me to play around with the data for latte sipping squirrel hunters.
    Somebody told me that they are sending hate mail to Dr. Dean, and threatening to
    vote for somebody from the other party.
  19. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's a small point in the context, but the choice between a and an is entirely a question of euphony.
    True, it is possible to set out a rather good generalisation based on initial letters, but the "rule" simply reflects how the words sound. The many threads here discussing exceptions to the "rule" attest to that.

    Back to -one and -body
    Continuing our evidence-based enquiry, I had a look at the results from corpora of American and British English (courtesy of Brigham Young University - links in the forum sticky).
    One of the analyses shows by register the frequency per million words of the search term. Below I have

    British English
    Someone/somebody - spoken ... 188/424
    Someone/somebody - academic ... 87/11
    Anyone/anybody - spoken ... 122/257
    Anyone/anybody - academic ... 56/6
    Everyone/everybody - spoken ... 123/277
    Everyone/everybody - academic ... 43/12
    No-one/nobody - spoken ... 12/149
    No-one/nobody - academic ... 6/13

    American English
    Someone/somebody - spoken ... 285/272
    Someone/somebody - academic ... 79/10
    Anyone/anybody - spoken ... 144/183
    Anyone/anybody - academic ... 55/8
    Everyone/everybody - spoken ... 195/330
    Everyone/everybody - academic ... 73/15
    No-one/nobody - spoken ... 0/138
    No-one/nobody - academic ... 0.5/14

    Apart from confirming that academic English is more likely than spoken English to use the -one forms, there are some interesting features.

    First, the remarkable similarity between AE and BE for some-, any- and every-.
    And in contrast, the difference between AE and BE for no-.

    EDIT: Checking the figures I found that I had omitted the hyphen in no-one at first. So the count included all uses of "no one".
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2008
  20. dpvwia New Member

    USA, english
    From a midwestern perspective, I agree!

    However, I disagree that the two are universally interchangeable. For example, speaking to a specific group of people (a meeting or a class, for example), I would say "Doesn't anybody have something to say?" But speaking generally (about society, for example), I would use "anyone" in the same sentence. Anybody is more specific, more pointed - whereas anyone is more general and vague. Granted, interchanging these would still function - but I think this subtlety is the reason we have two different expressions.
  21. ascoltate

    ascoltate Senior Member

    Montréal, QC
    U.S.A. & Canada, English
    I love a corpus study -- but just to clarify: the counts for AE DO or DON'T include "no one" without the hyphen?? I ask, because in AE, it is spelled "no one" and not "no-one" -- so if "no one" were not included, that would explain the lack of occurrences in AE...
  22. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I either didn't think of that or chose not to list figures for no one because it has other meanings - probably the former :eek:

    Corpus of Contemporary American English
    no one - spoken/academic - 136/57

    British English
    no one - spoken/academic - 5/6

    Looking at the examples, most of the AE examples are the equivalent of no-one in BE, most of the BE examples are not relevant.
  23. mrteacher New Member

    Mexican Spanish
    What's the difference between "everybody and nobody"
  24. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello mrteacher - welcome to WordReference :)

    Have you checked the dictionary definitions for everybody and nobody?
  25. mrteacher New Member

    Mexican Spanish
    Thanks for the advise.
  26. lughamreeki New Member

    Anyone has its origin in Old English. It also seems more appropriate to use anyone for complete clarity. anybody can refer to an individual and a COLLECTIVE BODY OF COMPONENTS (PEOPLE). Anyone refers to the individual. our current usage directs our focus to the individual.
  27. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Welcome to the forum, Lughamreeki.

    Unfortunately I have to disagree with you. According to my dictionaries, anybody is the older word, anyone is synonymous with it, both refer only to any person at all and not to a body of people, and neither compound goes back to Old English.
  28. Latuamacchina Senior Member

    Midwest, USA
    English/Midwest, USA
    I agree with dpvwia that anybody feels more specific than anyone.
  29. o2cooL New Member

    [FONT=Frutiger SBIN Rm v.1]
    Well, I must say, all these comments are very interesting to me. Now this, is coming from a person who knows absolutely nothing about grammar. (I know , I'm probably writing this all wrong too). Please be kind though. That's why I'm here. I just decided to find out what I've been missing ( and it's a lot !!) . I'm always looking up things, wanting to know everything. It's hard when your education was/ is so limited. Now, that I'm way older, I can't seem to stop. I thirst-for-knowledge . I look up everything !! Ok. I digress.
    For me, coming from a non-smart person. I have always wondered about the "anybody" "anyone" "somebody" "someone". And I have asked many smart persons this question, and the answers I get are still vague. Ok, here goes, now , this is coming from a person looking from the "outside" "into " persons who are so cool smart. Tell me what you think. And be nice , but constructive.

    To me when you use "one", it seems to me.
    Nice, quiet, gentle, soft, friendly.

    And when you use : "body" it seems:
    bold, louder, stronger, more urgent , but not un-friendly.

    Hey , thanks "everyone" (nicer) hee hee
    Byee, Ms DaLe ALif
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2015
  30. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Rhythmwise a -body word tends to speed a sentence up, and a -one word tends to slow it down.

    And to me, the -body words are more personable (like gin a body meet a body) and the -one words more standoffish (like the indefinite pronoun one).

    Otherwise they are synonymous and I use whichever sounds better in context. For example, I usually avoid using -one in a context with lots of w sounds, e.g. "Would anyone wonder when we wanted to use one?" (I would prefer anybody in this sentence).
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2010
  31. o2cooL New Member

    Thanks for responding so soon. I kind of like the idea you presented , with the "speed up" and "slow down". The analogy is more understandable for us non- grammar-correct persons. I will try to remember this lesson. I have always thought of these two words, as I stated before. But it's great to see how so many of you interpret them so differently. And are concerned about the correct usage.

    Has anyone seen Jill ? She is the nice person who sits at the front desk. (softer)(weaker)(nicer)

    Has anybody seen Jill ? She left a big mess at the front desk. ( louder) (stronger)

    Just my own interpretations. I know, grammar rules.
    Thanks again,

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2015
  32. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    This interesting discussion of grammar and statistics may be helpful to someone in the future.

    However, we no longer allow such far-ranging discussions in the forum. I am closing this thread. Anyone who would like to discuss any of the issues raised here, may continue in the appropriate thread. I suspect they will be able to find an existing thread, but if there is none, they are welcome to start a new thread in the appropriate forum.

    Cagey, moderator.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2015
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