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  • Do you live anywhere near him?
  • Do you live somewhere near him?

Is there any difference between these two sentences?

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5 Answers 5

Somewhere refers to a specific place while anywhere refers to, well, any place. However, it is one of the endearing (or frustrating) traits of English that those two can mean the same thing at the same time. Sometimes.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy sings of "Somewhere over the rainbow," which refers to a specific place of happiness she might someday visit. She is imagining a single location.

In the song "Anywhere I Go" the neo-ska / permanently stoned band Slightly Stoopid talks about "Anywhere I go I choose to be with you," meaning wherever "I" go, be it Kalamazoo or Djibouti, "I" will choose to be with "you". This could be any location.

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4  
They can mean the same thing sometimes, indeed; but not anytime. –  Gorpik Jun 14 '12 at 11:54

Aside from the meanings listed in other answers, there is a subtle connotation switch when using them in the sentences you are asking about:

Do you live anywhere near him?

This is usually spoken as one of the following:

Do you live anywhere near him?

Do you live anywhere near him?

A rewording:

Do you even live close to this guy?

The suggestion is one of incredulousness and is often said after someone made a claim that he did live near him but now that they have traveled an hour or so the speaker is frustrated and needs clarification or reassurance.


Do you live somewhere near him?

This holds none of the connotations above and just simply means, "Do you live close to him?"

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I agree with Robusto. As to your question, yes, those two sentences are asking the same question. Maybe the definitions of some and any will clear it up a little...

some: used to refer to someone or something that is unknown or unspecified

any: [ usually with negative or in questions ] used to refer to one or some of a thing or number of things, no matter how much or many

Note that any may at times mean some

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As Robusto says, somewhere is a location within a defined category (Somewhere at home, Somewhere in the city, Somewhere on Earth). Anywhere is any location (Have you seen my watch anywhere?, I can't find it anywhere, Anywhere is fine by me).

They can be used interchangeably, but only in some instances. They do definitely have two different meanings, but sometimes those meanings overlap, as in your example.

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To give another example, where both words can be used but with a different meaning and that may be more poignant than yours:

The key we are looking for may be anywhere in this room.
The key we are looking for may be somewhere in this room.

In the first case, the main statement is that every conceivable place with this room may contain the key. It is strongly implied that the key is in the room and not elsewhere. The emphasis is usually on anywhere.

In the second case, the main statement is that this room is among the potential positions of the key. The somewhere is only a secondary information added by the speaker to state that the potential positions of the key cannot be specified further. The emphasis is usually on may or this.

Somewhere refers to a single location that is not further specified. Specifying it will leave the rest of the sentence intact with the same meaning. For example, we could replace somewhere with the table or one of the tables:

The key we are looking for may be on the table in this room.

Here, the main statement is that the table in this room is a potential position of the key. No statement is made upon the likelihood of other places in the room to contain the key. Going the other way, replacing the table with somewhere only removes the specification of the position. The focus of may, i.e., what is marked as being potential, is the whole sentence. Compare to “the key is in this room” vs. “the key may be in this room”.

Anywhere refers to the ensemble of all possible locations. Replacements that would not affect the meaning of the rest of the sentence would be:

The key we are looking for may be in every cubic centimetre of this room.
The key we are looking for may be on the table in this room, under the table in this room, on the shelf in this room, behind the shelf in this room, under the shelf in this room, in the shelf in this room or in that little bust of Cthulhu on the shelf in this room.

As we are now referring to an ensemble of locations, the focus of may is shifted and now lies on the elements of the ensemble, all of which are potential locations for the key. May now marks the potentiality of these locations, i.e., that, given a specific location, we cannot know whether it contains the key or not (without looking). Compare to:

That woman may be Alice.
That woman may be Alice or Betty.

In the first case, we say that it is possible that the woman is Alice. The second case can be emphasised such (stress on or) that the woman is either Alice or Betty, but nobody else. (We can also emphasise the second sentence such that we state that ist is possible that the woman is Alice or Betty, but she may also be a third person – but that’s not the point of this example.)

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