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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Something or anything?    

Something or anything?


Something or anything?
Please help me with this sentence.
" Can �t you do ______________ with your family?"
A. something     B. anything.
and why do you choose that answer.
Thank you! 

4 May 2015      


Can �t you do ______________ with your family?"  anything

4 May 2015     

United Kingdom

Either, but I think grammatically, it should be anything, which comes after a negative interrogative. The stress would be on anything. If you get really exasperated, you would then say, �Is there nothing you can do with your family? � 
(I may be wrong...) 

4 May 2015     

Peter Hardy

As a general rule, we use SOME (-thing) in affirmative sentences and ANY (-thing) in interrogative and negative sentences, but we can use ANY (singular or plural) in affirmative sentences, "no matter which".


ANY (anything) in affirmatives sentences:

  • You can take any book you like.  (You can take one book, no matter which one)

  • You can take any books you like.  (You can take more than one book, no matter which ones)

  • That exercise is very easy.  Any child here could answer that.  (This boy or that girl, it doesn �t matter who you choose, they all know the answer)

  • You don �t need to go there at the weekend.  You can go any day you want.  It �s always open.


    ANY in conditional sentences

    We usually use ANY after "if" even in affirmative sentences (but SOME may also be possible)

  • If you see anything strange, tell me

  • If you like any of these books, you can borrow it.

Cheers, Peter

4 May 2015     


The answer would depend on how unbearable your family is :-D
"Can you do something with my family?" would suggest a lesser problem, as some in questions can be used if you are expecting a positive answer (e.g. Can you give me something to drink?)
"Can you do anything with my family?" is an indication for me that a situation is really grave (Adams family???) and it �s hard to do anything really.
Also, as my learned colleagues already suggested, if it �s an elementary level - I �d rather go for "anything" as it follows the rule of "any-" for questions and negations". The higher the level - B1/2 and up - the more options.

4 May 2015     


I would use both, depending on the situation, eg:
I would say, "Can �t you do something with your family?" to someone who didn �t know what to do at the weekend.
I would say, "Can �t you do anything with you family?" to someone who complained that they didn �t get on with their family.
Hope that helps,

4 May 2015     

United States

Yes, wither choice as some have said, for the reasons Anne gave very clearly. I also agree that if it is an elementary class, "anything" is the better choice.


4 May 2015     

United States

Here in Iowa if someone asks, "Can �t you do something with your family?" to a parent or parents it means, "Can �t you make your children behave?" If asked by a teenager to another teenager it means, "Can �t you find some way to get your parents to let you do what you want to do?" It can also mean, "Isn �t there something you can do to make your family members be more agreeable in this adverse situation?"
"Isn �t there anything you can do with your family?" might be a parent speaking to their rebellious teen, "Can �t you find ANYTHING you enjoy doing with your family?"   

4 May 2015     


Thank you very much for your answers.

5 May 2015