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Tell me please which question is correct?

Is there anybody sure that he is right in the room?

Is anybody sure that he is right in the room?

I feel that both sentences are correct, but I cannot see the difference. Is there any?

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  • The first sentence would be more idiomatic (although still not as much as the second if rephrased: Is there anybody (here) who is sure that is [] the room? (Note that the use of right is odd in both sentences.) Sep 6, 2019 at 0:54

1 Answer 1

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Your first sentence is just about grammatical, but it is not idiomatic, and does not have quite the same meaning.

Is there an X?

can usually be replaced by

Does an X exist?

So "Is there anybody sure that ... " means "Does there exist somebody who is sure that ... ". Formally, this might mean the same as "Is anybody sure that ... ", but pragmatically it certainly doesn't.

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  • But to make the first 'just about grammatical' you have had to interpolate the words 'who is' that are not there. Without that interpolation it is not at all grammatical.
    – JeremyC
    Sep 5, 2019 at 21:49
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    @JeremyC: I don't agree. I interpolated the words to paraphrase. But "Is there anybody available/willing to talk to me" has the same structure, and seems perfectly cromulent to me. #
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 5, 2019 at 22:42
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    @JeremyC The fact that the words are missing does not make it ungrammatical. There are a large number of grammatical constructions that involve elision. We frequently assume things to exist that aren't literally present. The missing words don't make it ungrammatical, merely, in this particular case, awkward. Sep 6, 2019 at 0:55

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