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  1. #1
    keannu's Avatar
    keannu is offline Key Member
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    Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    In the below conversation, is "something" possible? I think something is used for declarative sentence while anything is used for negative sentence and questions. I think something should be amended to "anything"

    June: I saw your boyfriend leave here a moment ago.
    Lacey: Yes, he brought me these beautiful flowers.
    June: Why? Is he sorry for something?
    Lacey: No, I think he just wanted to make me smile.

  2. #2
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    Not in this case, as the words mean 'Is there something that he's sorry for?' rather than 'Is there anything [among all the things he's done] that he's sorry for'.

    b

  3. #3
    keannu's Avatar
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    I'm sorry, I don't get what you mean.

  4. #4
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    Hello, keannu.

    I am also a learner. Perhaps my words could do some help.

    In some cases, something can be seen in questions. An example is Do you want something to drink?

    According to what I've read, the use of something, instead of anything, here, shows the person who says it is certain that he will receive an affirmative answer. In other words, he knows that the other person wants to drink something.

    Althought he is using a question, the meaning is not different from a declarative sentence with the same key words in it. So, by saying Do you want something to drink?, he is actually saying I know you want something. Tell me what you want.

    When anything is used, the speaker actually asks a question. He doesn't know if the other person wants to drink or not.

    In my opinion, what Bobk was trying to say is that June thinks it's unusual for a man to give his girlfriend beautiful flowers for no particular reason. So, June thinks Lacey's boyfriend must have done something wrong. By saying Is there something he's sorry for?, she actually means There must be something he's sorry for. Tell me about it. At the same time, Is there anything [among all the things he's done] he's sorry for? is a common question. Because you have given the background, it is reasonable to assume that June thinks in the way written above.

    Perhaps one of the teachers here would further expand on this matter.

    If any part of my comments is misleading, I will be glad to stand corrected.

    Richard

  5. #5
    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Not in this case, as the words mean 'Is there something that he's sorry for?' rather than 'Is there anything [among all the things he's done] that he's sorry for'.

    b
    I think "Why? Is he sorry about something?" is OK.

  6. #6
    Khosro's Avatar
    Khosro is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    I think "Why? Is he sorry about something?" is OK.
    I guess if you put "about" in place of "for" then the meaning of "sorry" itself and the story itself changes. Am I right or not?

    Better to stick to the "for something"/"for anything" debate.

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    I learn English and at the same time teach English

  7. #7
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    According to what I've read, the use of something, instead of anything, here, shows the person who says it is certain that he will receive an affirmative answer. In other words, he knows that the other person wants to drink something.
    Thank you, I never thought of it this way; it's thought-provoking. I would replace "is certain" with "expects". I don't have to be certain to say that. It's enough that I feel the affirmative answer is likely.

    It seems to be a good rule of thumb but it lacks depth in my opinion and can be misleading. I think it could be better for a learner to look at the real meanings (whatever that means...) of "some" and "any".

    1) Is there somebody here?
    2) Is there anybody here?

    These questions are identical in terms of simple truth-false logic. The answer to both is "yes" when there is at least one person there and it's "no" when there are no people there. There is a difference between these sentences though. The first could be said on hearing a noise leading the speaker to a supposition that there might be somebody there.

    The second could be said by a person entering an empty shop. In an open shop there usually is a shop assistant. The person may suppose there is a shop assistant somewhere in the shop, but lacking any evidence they will say 2).

    This might indeed make us think that the difference between "some" and "any" is (in this case) about our predictions or suppositions--in some way. And I think it is, in some way, true. But I also believe there is a deeper reason for such choices. Of course, it still must be a reason connected to the speaker's view of the situation--I did not forget that the questions are identical truth-wise (I welcome any suggestions of a better adverb).

    I believe the word "some" has a meaning similar to that of "certain", the meaning of "determinate but unknown or unspecified". (I see in dictionaries that "certain" is given the meaning of "indeterminate" too. I'm not convinced that it can really be used this way, but it's not the meaning I have in mind now anyway.) When I say "somebody", it means that I think of a specific person. I don't know this person, but they are specific--in this case they are the person who made the noise.

    When I say "anybody" I don't think of a specific person. There is no way of specifying the "body"; there is no focus. Anybody could be in the shop. (Well, of course not exactly anybody--my very sick aunt can't be there, because she can't get off her bed--but I simply don't think this way and we must remember that we're in my mind now.)

    This distinction might be unconscious. It surely was in my case, as I've been trying to get it for more than an hour now. I believe I'm on the right track though. I think it should also apply to asking about "something to drink" and "anything to drink". It seems obvoius that "anything to drink" is not specific, but I'm having trouble explaining why "something to drink" is specific. I hope someone can see this better than I.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 28-Jan-2011 at 22:15.

  8. #8
    keannu's Avatar
    keannu is offline Key Member
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    I think no one is giving me a clear answer to it. I'm getting more and more confused. I need a more clear answer. Thank you all!

  9. #9
    JMurray is offline Key Member
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    June: I saw your boyfriend leave here a moment ago.
    Lacey: Yes, he brought me these beautiful flowers.
    June: Why? Is he sorry for something?
    Lacey: No, I think he just wanted to make me smile.


    Hi Keannu. Perhaps I can have a shot at this.
    I don't think there is a lot of difference between "something" and "anything" in this context. Either would be understood in normal conversation as meaning much the same thing.
    However, by saying "Is he sorry for something?", the question assumes slightly more strongly that perhaps there is a single incident that the boy is apologizing for.
    "Anything" is more likely to be used if the person asking the question is aware that the boy has made several mistakes, and she is asking if he has apologized for any of them at all.
    That's how I see it.

  10. #10
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Is he sorry for something? Possible?

    BC is on the right track.

    Here are some ideas from Lewis, Michael (1986) The English Verb, Hove: LTP.


    “Both some and any are used with indefinite reference.
    Some is used if the idea is restricted or limited in some way.
    Any is used if the idea is unrestricted or unlimited.
    Any applies to all or none; some applies to part.

    The restriction may be a real one – There’s some cheese in the fridge – or a psychological one, existing only in the mind of the speaker – Would you like something to eat?

    The real semantic distinction is as simple as that, and applies to all uses of some and any.

    There’s more of course, but that’s the heart of it.

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