Difference between something and anything

Discussion in 'English Only' started by susantash, Jul 26, 2006.

  1. susantash Senior Member

    Español de Uruguay
    Hi everyone!

    What would be the difference between : "would you like something else?"
    and "would you like anything else?"
    or "Is there anybody there?" and "is there somebody there?"

    I have to say that the use of "any" and "some" is quite confusing to me.

    Thanks a lot!!
  2. matthawk127 Member

    Pittsburgh, PA
    English, United States
    "would you like something else" and "would you like anything else" can be used interchangeably

    "Is anybody/anyone there" and "is somebody/someone there" can also be used interchangeably (you don't need "there" twice"
  3. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I am not sure about this, but here is my suggestion.
    You ask 'Is there somebody there?' if you think that there may be a person there (somebody) or that there may be nobody there.
    You ask 'Is there anybody there?' if you think that there may be a person there (somebody), or nobody there, or more than one person there.
  4. susantash Senior Member

    Español de Uruguay
    Sorry to tell you, but my teachers have told me "Difference in form always implies some difference in meaning"
    And besides I've heard that there is a difference, it's just that I can´t remember.
    Anyway I do appreciate your contribution!!:)
  5. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    Your teachers aren't that flexible then. Surely the point of language is that words occupy different spaces of meaning both in time and cultures. I would also be wary of rejecting opinions of native speakers out of hand. I am not saying they can't be wrong but bear in mind they do have a much longer history with a language and how it is used in practice.
  6. DavyBCN Senior Member

    UK - English
    The two are definitely not interchangeable in all respects, especially in negative statements

    There isn't anything on the table - correct
    There isn't something on the table - incorrect.

    But change these to questions, with question tags:-

    There isn't anything on the table, is there? - correct
    There isn't something on the table, is there? - also correct.
  7. Lori15 Senior Member

    English, England
    Most of the time they can be used interchangeably without too much difference in meaning. However the first question 'something else' implies responding to a request or suggestion that something else is required in addition - i.e a response to a signal from a person in a cafe who has already ordered something - 'yes sir would like something else?' - 'anything else' is much more open and there is no suggestion tha anything else is required. For example a waiter has just served coffee to some customers at a table and then asks 'would you like anything else?'

    They are quite difficult and the differences are subtle but in general conversation either form will be understood.
    Hope this helps
  8. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Something is particular; Anything is general. Try something else (particular) --anything else (whatever).

    "Would you like something else?" suggests that you have a particular thing in mind whereas "Would you like anything else" is general or neutral.
  9. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Dear me, I've never seen such a laconic explanation of the difference between something and anything! :thumbsup:
  10. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Just as a side note - in Salesmanship classes, I have heard the difference described as an "open" and "closed" question. "Would you like something else?", they say, invites a response, while "Would you like anything else?" assumes an answer of "No, nothing else" but allows for an additional request.

    Whether that's true or not, I'm not sure, but it does seem to have a ring of truth about it.
  11. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Hmm... I can't see such a difference between these two phrases, frankly.
    Maybe that's just because something/anything are translated into Russian with one and the same word.
    But if I'd ask somebody in English, I'd certainly prefer 'Would you like something else'. It sounds more... polite, let's say. :)
  12. A90Six Senior Member

    England - English.
    Anything means any thing.

    Something means an unknown or unspecified thing:
    Anything (any thing) could have happened that night ... and something (unspecified) did.
    Anybody (any person) could just walk in here, and somebody (an unknown or unspecified person) will one of these days.

    In the examples you have given the words are interchangeable, although this is not always the case.

    There's something I need to tell you.:tick:
    There's anything I need to tell you.:cross:

    There's something wrong with my car.:tick:
    There's anything wrong with my car.:cross:

    Dad - I want you to tidy your room.
    Son - Anything you say, Dad.:tick:
    Son - Something you say, Dad.:cross:

    I hope this helps.
  13. southerngal Senior Member

    American English
    That's my thought exactly.

    I want something sweet. A strawberry? No. A soda? No. Some ice cream? No. I just can't make up my mind.


    I want anything sweet. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it's sweet, I'll take it!
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you were to dig into the WR archive ...

    Would you like something else?
    Invites a positive respone.

    Would you like anything else?
    Invites a negative response.
  15. susantash Senior Member

    Español de Uruguay
    Hi cirrus!
    Maybe I was a bit too hard, but the thing is that my teachers are not just any regular English teachers; they are teacher trainers and besides when they say that they they refer to something that Michael Lewis says and he is one of the most respected linguists around the world and a native speaker as well!!
    I´m sorry if I was a bit rude; That was never my intenion!:eek:
  16. 123o4 Member

    Portuguese / Brazil
    Dear friends, I've been taught that ANYthing is used in question and negative sentences; SOMEthing is used in affirmative ones.
    But we use SOME and NOT ANY when we offer something or give suggestions.
    Is there anybody home?
    There ins't anybody home.
    There is nobody home.
    There is somebody at the door!
    Would you like something to drink?
    Yes, I'll have a soda.
    Anything else?
    No, thanks.
    Hope it helps.
  17. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Dear 123o4,
    Of course you are basically right but when we are using the phrase 'would you like?' we are not inquiring into the existence of something but rather making an offer of something, implying that we have something to offer.

    For example, if we ask "is there anything in the fridge?" we don't know whether there is anything there or not. However if we ask "would you like something to drink?" it is because we have something to give you.
  18. susantash Senior Member

    Español de Uruguay
    Thanks a lot!
    You've all been of great help
  19. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm intrigued by the contrast between JamesM's suggestion:
    and my comment in an earlier thread on the same subject:
    What intrigues me is that I agree with JamesM, and I still agree with myself.
  20. 123o4 Member

    Portuguese / Brazil
    Dear Porteño, I agree with panjan when he says he is intrigued by JamesM suggestion.
    What is happening with Advanced Grammar?!
    For sure, when we say would you like... we are just making an offer; I guess I was not clear in my earlier post. Sorry.
  21. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I think it's the addition of "else", panjandrum, because I'm in agreement with your post as well. :) Somehow, the "else" changes the intention of the phrase.
  22. bearsky23 New Member

    English - America
    Also, with the 'Do you need something?', it all depends on your tone/body language. You can say this without it coming across as rude.
  23. ohmyrichard Senior Member

    The dictionary of Collins CoBuild English Usage says on p.643: In questions, you can use something or anything as part of the object. If you are asking for confirmation that something is true, you use something. For example, if you think I found something in the cupboard, you might say "Did you find something in the cupboard?" If you do not know whether I found something in the cupboard or not, you would say "Did you find anything in the cupboard?" In other words, in my opinion, if you expect the listener to answer yes, you use something. Otherwise, you use anything, showing that you really have no idea. The customs officer usually asks you: Do you have anything to declare? as he is not sure whether you have anything to declare or not.
    This is not an issue too complicated. Hope this helps you.
  24. argentina84

    argentina84 Senior Member

    Göteborg, Sweden
    Argentina Spanish
    What about these sentences I have just come up with?

    "If I need anything, I will tell you" and, "If I need something, I will tell you"

    What's the difference in meaning between them? Thanks!

  25. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I think they are nearly identical in meaning.
  26. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    I was also intrigued and do not entirely agree with JamesM, even though no doubt some people may consider it that way.

    I do not understand your question about Advanced Grammar. I am no authority on grammar or the English language in particular, I merely express my personal opinion based on what I have learnt from experience or from studying the grammar books to assist my long-suffering pupils.
  27. Merpero Senior Member

    English-United Kingdom
    Some of the above answers are excellent. But, for me, the most important thing, when learning a foreign language is: At the beginning, strive to make anything that is very complex as simple as possible. Start off by learning this simple thing very thoroughly. Then, eventually, your understanding of it will become so strong, that you will be ready to build on it, and learn more complicated variations of it.
    For example, if I were you, I would content myself, (at the beginning) with understanding that YES, "would you like something else" and "would you like anything else" are indeed "interchangeable", for all practical purposes. I, personally, would use EITHER of these expressions, if I was asking my children if they'd had enough to eat.

    And, also, for me "Is there somebody there" and "Is there anybody there" mean exactly the same thing.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2008

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