Submitted by marcelo  •  November 21, 2004

Something X Anything

I wrote this sentence talking about a website: “This is neither the beginning nor the end of something.”

I wanted to say that I wasn’t trying to start something new, it was just something temporary before I started the real thing.

Someone told me “something” is grammatically incorrect and that I should have used “anything” but in my opinion it implies a change in the whole meaning of the sentence.

I’d like to hear some other opinions about it.

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While I don't exactly disagree with either of the preceeding posters, I think the more general idea your original editor was trying to get across was that the sentence is not completely clear. I believe that is the case. As written, it is not clear to me whether you are suggesting that your site is the beginning of nothing, not the end of a particular thing, both the beginning and ending of nothing in particular, or any number of other options. So while I believe that gramatically, the statement is fine, I think it's a little fuzzy in its meaning. I think even if I had seen that phrase somewhere other than this site, I would have thought it sounded like something transliterated into English from a language in which it made more sense.

So long story short, it parses fine and sounds poetic, but if it is important to convey clear meaning in this instance you might choose a different construction.

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I may be a bit comservative grammatically, perhaps old-fashioned, but "something" usually indicates a question or hesitancy. I suggest you use "some thing" Two words instead of one. "In stead" is another example of this thing, but I believe only I find it amusing.

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Thanks speedwell,
That's exactly what I wanted to say.
"Nothing has changed.
I'm not trying to make something new.
I'm not trying to put it to an end.
It's just temporary."

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What Nigel is suggesting by the use of "some thing" is close to and may be clarified by this example: "This is neither the beginning nor the end of a thing."

For the record, I disagree; I think "some thing" in this context is awkward and unusual and obsolete. I definitely prefer "something."

A little pathos to enliven your morning:

"Travis looked at me with a drawn face across the top of his cup of tea. With a sigh, he said, 'Amanda, I really do not wish to abuse your trust in me, nor do I take lightly that which you have confessed you feel for me. But I am simply too attached to you to risk losing you to romantic complications.' As I began to cry silently behind the cover of my lace napkin, I felt his arm slip around me. With his cheek pressed against my hair, he murmured, 'Don't cry, sweetheart. This is neither the beginning nor the end of something. Our relationship hasn't really changed.'"

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Oh, there's nothing at all ungrammatical about your use of "something." In fact, I was about to say that the word might not be the very best choice, but I took it back before I said it. You did in fact mean both "This is not the beginning of something" and "This is not the end of something." It's perfectly understandable.

I can think of more than one situation in which I'd use it in preference to "anything." Here's an example:

The electrician lifted the exposed loop of cable and looked at the conduits to the right and the left into which it led. He scratched his head, perplexed. Then he glanced at me, saying, "This is the middle of something, here. It is neither the beginning nor the end of something."

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I don't think it's grammatically incorrect either. You definitely sound as if you're referring to something specific. If you had written "anything," it would have sounded as if you were not planning to do anything with your website, or as if your website were nothing.

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