understand anything

Akasaka

Senior Member
Japanese
Hello everyone,
Am I using "anything" correctly? Here, of course, "everything" is more common, but is "anything" also possible here?

I understood anything in the book.

Thanks in advance.
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    "Anything" and "everything" are hardly interchangeable in most cases; this situation is an example. I would not use "anything" here. Think of this dialog:

    A: "Is there anything in that book that you understood?"
    B: "I understood everything in the book."
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Hello everyone,
    Am I using "anything" correctly? Here, of course, "everything" is more common, but is "anything" also possible here?

    I understood anything in the book.

    Thanks in advance.

    Anything and everything are not interchangeable. They do not mean the same thing. It's true that they are both indefinite pronouns. But anything is unspecific; everything is specific (even though it covers everything). Bibliolept gave an instructive statement and response. I'll give you some more.

    Imagine there are three things in a box. Here are some ways of referencing those things:

    Do you own everything in the box? Yes, I own all three things.

    Do you own anything in the box? Yes, I own one of those things.

    Do you own everything in the box? No, I only own two things.

    Don't you own anything in the box? Of course I do, I own two things in the box.

    Is everything in the box owned by somebody here? No, one of those things is owned by a person in South America.

    Is anything in the box owned by somebody here? No, everything is owned by somebody in France.

    You get the idea ...
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Thanks coiffe. I think I did.
    I can eat anything in a restaurant because Chinese dishes are my favorite, but I can't eat everything, because they serve many kinds of dishes.

    Exactly. Although, you could probably eat everything over a long period of time. Each time you went in, you could pick anything on the menu. But unless you had a lot of money and a huge basket, and quite a few people to help you, you couldn't pick everything in just one visit.
     

    JeffJo

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA, English
    Am I using "anything" correctly? Here, of course, "everything" is more common, but is "anything" also possible here?

    I understood anything in the book.


    The word "anything" is possible there, but it's strange. The problem is more one of usage than meaning. People simply don't say that. A person would say "everything" (if the intent is to convey that the entire book is understood.)
     

    JeffJo

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA, English
    I can eat anything in a restaurant because Chinese dishes are my favorite, but I can't eat everything, because they serve many kinds of dishes.


    The word "something" would be used in that case. If there's some Chinese food on the menu, that would be "something" you could order, and enjoy.


    Saying you could eat 'anything' on the menu is the same as saying it doesn't matter whether Chinese food is listed.
     

    Lora44

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It's a weird one. I agree with coiffe's explanation and think the examples highlight the difference quite well. Everything is talking about all of whatever it is you're talking about, and anything refering to one specific part/thing of all of what you're talking about. To use your sentence as an example, you could say 'I understood everything in that book. Ask me anything'. Here you're saying you understood all of the things in that book and you're inviting the person you're speaking with to test this by testing you on one specific thing out of all the things in the book.
     
    Top