Grammar mishaps: Anything vs. everything vs. something

A tutorial on how and when to use these three words.

Anything, everything and something play so many roles in the English language, I sometimes think of them as members of a small acting troupe. They can display endless versatility, depending on the context in which they’re used.

Anything is a pronoun that can refer to any object, event or matter. You’ll use it when you’re unable to be specific or have no intention of being so.

Example: Barry will steal anything that isn’t nailed down.

You’re saying that Barry doesn’t care what he steals; if he sees something he wants—regardless of what it is—he’ll take it.

Example: He asked me what I wanted for Christmas, but I couldn’t think of anything.

Here you’re saying that nothing came to mind; you’re unable to be specific.

Everything is a pronoun that means to encompass all.

Example: Jim was so hungry, he ate everything on his plate.

In other words, he ate it all.

Everything can also mean an essential fact.

Example: Mary’s friendship meant everything to Frank.

In other words, her friendship is of utmost importance to him.

The word something, when used as a pronoun, refers to an undetermined or unspecified thing.

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