What is the difference between anybody,somebody,someone,nobody? And when should we use one or another of them?

It's a bit confusing to me.


Does (anybody/somebody/someone/nobody) want a game of tennis ?

  • I put it on hold because it is not clear why a dictionary isn't able to answer your question. If you add more explanation, we may be able to reopen this.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 24, 2017 at 13:52
  • i've provided an example Mar 24, 2017 at 14:11
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    @ColleenV Dictionaries can't deal with function words - which is why they are studied in grammar lessons and not vocabulary lessons! :-) This is a common source of confusion for learners, is not easy and cannot be cleared up by a dictionary. But worse than that it is not easy to explain why they are confusing. (If you want to see that more clearly, see if you think you could explain the difference to a friend!) Mar 24, 2017 at 14:19
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    @ColleenV For example, a dictionary won't tell you that anybody is a negative polarity item and that it's use is restricted in positive sentences. Consider "I saw anybody in town yesterday". Or "Did you find anything?" "Yes, I did find anything". That cannot be cleared up by a dictionary! :-) Mar 24, 2017 at 14:22
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    @Araucaria I do know all of this, which is why I closed it as needing more detail and not "answerable by a dictionary". I just wanted to see a little more effort put into the question. Asking why the dictionary didn't help was intended to be a starting point to think about why it was confusing. The meanings don't help us know when to use them.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 24, 2017 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


Does (anybody/somebody/someone) want a game of tennis?

The words "somebody" and "someone" are essentially identical and can be used interchangeably. This applies to the words "anybody" and "anyone" as well. This answer explains the differences between "anyone" and "someone".

In this particular case, "Does anyone..." is the more common phrasing.

Google Ngram Viewer is a useful tool for determining which word appears more commonly in literature. "someone" occurred more frequently than "somebody" in each year after 1920:


Does nobody want a game of tennis?

This sentence assumes that nobody wants to play tennis and asks if anyone will deny that this is true. It may also imply disbelief that nobody wants a game of tennis. Although correct, the more common phrasing of this question would be:

Doesn't anybody want a game of tennis?

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