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I was studying and I saw a sentence that went like this: "Have I done something wrong?"

I was wondering, instead of writing "something", shouldn´t I write "anything", since the sentence is a question?

Thank you people.

marked as duplicate by user140086, Andrew Leach Dec 29 '15 at 20:06

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  • Anything, anybody, anyone, anywhere, and all other combinations with any are Negative Polarity Items, which can't occur except inside the scope of a negative trigger. Questions and if-clauses, as well as comparative and superlative constructions, function as negative triggers, Mostly some and any are in complementary distribution, but they can both be used in questions, with slightly different presuppositions. – John Lawler Dec 29 '15 at 15:28
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There may be a shade of difference between

Have I done something wrong?

and

Have I done anything wrong?

but that difference is not significant. The word something can indicate a particular thing which may have done wrong, while the word anything is not quite that specific. In other words, anything opens up the possibility that any number of things may have been done wrong.

I can also see a person asking about "something" when he or she has just accomplished a task, and another person indicates displeasure in some way. Then, the question "Have I done something wrong?" would be appropriate.

On the other hand, I can also see a person who has completed an entire task, asking a person for an opinion about how well he or she did. Then, the question "Have I done anything wrong?" might be more appropriate.

That each sentence is a question has no influence on which word to use, something or anything. I'd be interested in knowing why you thought it does.

  • I saw a sentence in my english book like this: - "John,Could you stay a little longer? I need to talk to you about something". ( Blank space) - "No, you haven´t done anything wrong" The space in blank is where I am supposed to write something. – moises soares Dec 29 '15 at 14:15
  • @moisessoares: To what sentence are you referring? – rhetorician Dec 29 '15 at 14:19
  • The two of them. This is an exercise of my book where I am supposed to write answers according to the questions below. And one of the questions was - " Jonh, could you stay a little longer? I need to talk to you" Than I have a blank space to write the answer according to the next saying of his. -" No, you haven´t done anything wrong". Now I need to figure out a question to write between these two sentences. And then a started to doubt about the meaning of something and anything in the sentece - Have I done (something/anything) wrong? – moises soares Dec 29 '15 at 14:23
  • And then I started to doubt about the meaning of something and anything in the sentece - Have I done (something/anything) wrong? – moises soares Dec 29 '15 at 14:35
  • @moisessoares: I see. In that case, either "something" or "anything" would be appropriate in response to the statement "I need to talk to you." – rhetorician Dec 29 '15 at 14:36

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