Why didn't you say something/anything at that time?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by homotopy07, Dec 7, 2018 at 1:30 AM.

  1. homotopy07

    homotopy07 Member

    (1) Why didn't you say something at that time?

    (2) Why didn't you say anything at that time?

    Is there any difference in connotation between these two sentences?

    I think (1) implies:

    (a) the speaker had expected the interlocutor to say something
    (b) the speaker thinks the interlocutor should have said something.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018 at 2:12 AM
  2. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Senior Member

    Cumbria, UK
    British English
    There isn't much of a difference, less than other some/any questions.

    "Something" is used when it is clear to both the person asking and the person being asked what the "something" is, at least in general terms. As you say, the person asking knows that there was something that could have been said. However, they only know this now; the addition of "at the time" suggests they didn't know this at the time in question.

    "Anything" is used in other situations where the person doesn't know whether there is anything or isn't really expecting anything. However, here it is clear that the questioner does know there is something otherwise they would not be asking the question at all.

    There is always some overlap, which still means that "anything" can be used in this question. Essentially the difference is that "something" refers to something in particular and "anything" refers to anything at all, and it depends which the speaker most wishes to emphasise.
  3. homotopy07

    homotopy07 Member

    Thank you very much, Jack. :)

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