Submitted by melania on August 5, 2010

anything vs. everything

What is the difference between writing “Find anything again” and “Find everything again”? My feeling is that “everything” has a more positive connotation.

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Well, it depends on the context. "Anything" can be exclusive: John is so out of his element in the kitchen: He can never find anything.

Contrast that with "John is so out of his element in the kitchen: He can never find everything."

The second version is a completely different meaning from the first; and in fact, the way the sentence is written, doesn't make a lot of sense.

Putting it another way, "anything" and "everything" are not synonymous, in any way.

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Since you're asking what the difference is, if you find everything, then, out of all the possible things there are to find, you must find every single one, without exception. On the other hand, if you find anything, then you only need find one or more, not necessarily every one. There's nothing positive or negative about either one. It's simply a matter of what you're trying to say. They mean two different things. Everything means all. Anything means at least one, possibly more. Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but that is what you asked.

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It's interesting: we use "anything" and "everything" often, understanding—we think—the difference. But dictionary definitions are less than clear:

Anything

any thing whatever : any such thing

Everything

all that exists; all that relates to the subject

These are from Merriam-Webster Online. The first is hardly a definition, and the second is little better. I examined my older dictionaries and found no clearer explanation. My sense is that "anything" implies a singularity, while "everything" will usually be plural.

The distinction between “Find anything again” and “Find everything again” is not one of connotation but of denotation. It's the difference is between finding one thing and finding all things (or as defined: "all that exists; all that relates to the subject"). Put simply: "I find a random thing" versus "I find all things."

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Douglas, I would agree with most of what you said with a minor exception. I would suggest that anything could imply either a singularity or a plurality. I would even suggest that if you have everything, then you also have anything. Anything is the opossite of nothing. If you have one, two, or all ten out of a possible ten things, then you have anything. The only way you can't have anything is if you have nothing. On the other hand, if you have everything, then you can only have all ten things. Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse here, but imagine we were discussing ten marbles. I asked you if you had anything in your hand. If you had any marbles at all you'd have to answer yes, even if you had all ten. If I asked if you had everything in your hand, referring to the marbles, of course, you could only answer yes if you had all ten.

was just about to say that anything does not include totality, but everything does. Instead, I would suggest that the totality of everything is actually included in the word anythi

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The word "some" is even more tricky. Depending on context, it could mean more than one, but less than all, or it could mean more than one, including all, or it could even mean an unspecified individual.

"Does anyone have any marbles?"
"Sure, I have some." (The speaker has more than one, and may even have all of them)

"Do you have all of the marbles?"
"I have some." (The speaker has more than one, but not all of them)

"Is there some person who hasn't lost his/her marbles?" Here, "some" is an unspecified individual (but there could be more than one such person).

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Porsche,
You make a good point. By "singularity" I meant as a grammatical construction, as in "anything goes." But when the waiter asks "may I get you anything?" the question does not limit you to just one item, of course.

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And, of course, the words, anything and everything, themselves, are singular.

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May I comment on "something"?

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Anything is basically saying 'any one thing'. Just one. I'm sure, however, that there are probably instances where it might be more than one thing.

Everything should be take word for word, 'every thing'.
(Apologies for my suckish examples...)
If you were to walk into a store and say, "I want everything you have." That would mean every single thing in that store, versus 'anything' in that same sentence. Or maybe if it is in that sentence, it almost sounds like it means more than one thing, but it shouldn't.

I think (:

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Oops, please disregard "was just about to say ...included in the word anythi" in my post above. Bad cut and paste.

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"A world,where anything is possible" .."a world ,where everything is possible...whats the difference?

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" "A world,where anything is possible" .."a world ,where everything is possible...whats the difference?"

are they synonymous in this case??? ...is there an element of "emphasis" that would make them different in the same context? For instance, if I used anything, does is it stronger than using everything?

Another example:

You can do/get everything you want vs. You can do/get anything you want

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As I understand it, "any" is used instead of "some" when forming a question or indicating a negative

as in
do you have any?
I have some
I don't have any

"Do you have some" is technically bad grammar. As is "I don't have some".


The question "did you find anything" is more open ended - the answer could be "I found something" or "I didn't find anything".

"Did you find everything" is referring to a known quantity - the "everything", more clearly defined than "something" which is more vague.

I had to teach this class in TEFL. It is a head wreaker.

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Please somebody: What´s the difference between:

that dog can eat anything / that dog can eat averything?

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@Felix - in this context, I'd say none.

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'anything' in that case, has more impact than 'everything'.

"The dog can eat anything." is like saying, "There is nothing the dog can't eat." Which is a lot more emphasis than just saying, "The dog can eat everything."

Hope this helps..!

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The dog can eat anything/everything - I side with Warsaw Will.

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anything is singular but everything is plural so everything is better than anything

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