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    #1

    "somebody" in a "don't want"-sentence

    Dear teachers,

    I've got another question today.

    It's about the use of anybody or somebody in the following sentence:

    Sam is very ambitious. He doesn't want anybody / somebody to help him with his work.

    I'm aware of the rule not to use "somebody" in a negative sentence, but here the "somebody" is not the one who is concerned by the negative "doesn't" but Sam is.

    Are both versions possible?

    Thanks for your help!

  1. Piscean's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "somebody" in a "don't want"-sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by Buddy42 View Post
    I'm aware of the rule not to use "somebody" in a negative sentence,
    That is not a rule based on the language we use. We can and do use 'somebody' in negative sentences. We use 'somebody' if we are restricting the idea in some way.; 'we use 'anybody' if we are not restricting the idea.

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    #3

    Re: "somebody" in a "don't want"-sentence

    I see. So both versions are okay in the context given here?

  2. Piscean's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: "somebody" in a "don't want"-sentence

    Yes.

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    #5

    Re: "somebody" in a "don't want"-sentence

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello, Buddy:

    I have made up two dialogues that (I hope) show you the difference.

    The boss: I want you to prepare a very important report for me.

    Mona: No problem, sir.

    The boss: If you wish, I can get you some assistance.

    Mona: I don't need help from anybody. I am capable of finishing the report completely by myself.

    *****

    The boss: I want you to prepare a very important report for me.

    Mona: No problem, sir. But I will need some help.

    The boss: OK. You understand that I am the boss, so it is my job to choose your assistant.

    Mona: Yes, sir, I understand. But in order to prevent any unpleasantless, you know that I don't want help from somebody. [ = a certain person]

    The boss: Yes, Mona, I am well aware of who that "somebody" is. Everyone knows that you and TheParser do not get along. So I will not assign him to help you.

  3. Piscean's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: "somebody" in a "don't want"-sentence

    TheParser's examples are fine, but 'somebody' can be used without the implication of 'a certain person'. It can simply convey the idea of 'some person or other'. , whereas 'not ... anybody' is more general - 'nobody at all'.

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    #7

    Re: "somebody" in a "don't want"-sentence

    Thank you both, Piscean and TheParser!
    I now understand that strict grammar rules only give an orientation on how language works but that language itself is kind of a living organism which does not always follow the rules somebody set up. It's the same in German. But for a learner this is sometimes confusing because you don't always "feel" whether something is right or wrong.
    "Somebody" in my example sounded completely fine to me but I did not trust myself. But you helped me do so.
    Your dialogues made the difference between the two "bodies" very clear, thank you very much for making them up!
    Have a nice day, both of you!

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