In the following sentences, would you, native English speakers, use the "any" form or the "some" form?

Thank you very much!

a) I regret that Mary said that John had bought {something / anything} in that shop.

b) I regret that it happened that everyone bought {something / anything} in those terrible shops. [please imagine that "everyone" refers to a group of tourists]

c) He regrets that Mary believed that John had invited {someone / anyone} to her party.

d) He regrets that Mary knew that {someone / anyone} was saying bad things about her.

e) She regrets that {someone / anyone} has read this book.

(This last one is a little bit different in its structure.)

  • I could see "anyone" working with either one. Otherwise, I'd choose "something" for all the others. – aparente001 Oct 13 '19 at 4:07
  • Sorry, I think I do not fully understand your answer. Do you mean that with one of the five sentences you would use the "any-" form or the "some-" one and that with the other four you would only use the "some-" form? Thank you! – Robert Trujillo Oct 13 '19 at 8:47
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    Hello, Robert. Where are these example sentences from? It's hard to comment on idiomaticity when the rest of a sentence sounds odd. / Also, in the first example for instance, 'something' would be the normal ('unmarked') choice, but an emphasised 'anything' (and I can think of two situations where it could be) is also a legitimate choice to convey different messages. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 13 '19 at 11:15
  • Hello, Edwin. These examples were built by me with the intention to test if it was possible to have an "any" element in an embedded clause under an embedded clause (this is why they sound considerably artificial). I believe that "John regrets that he said anything" is grammatical, but would it still be if there was another level of embedding in between? This is what I try to test with these examples. In any case, thank you for you answer; would you say that, in general, the first four original examples would basically be with "some-", even if, with emphasis, they could be w/ "any-"? Thank you. – Robert Trujillo Oct 13 '19 at 14:14
  • I'll just go with one. a) I regret that Mary said that John had bought something in that shop. No problem grammatically, and I'd say the preferred unmarked choice. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 19 '19 at 12:01

@EdwinAshworth raised a good point, asking where these sentences came from ("It's hard to comment on idiomaticity when the rest of a sentence sounds odd"). After reading that, and looking at your sentences again, they do start to look a bit odd.

They appear contrived. There are too many levels. I don't think you even need that many levels, if your purpose is to construct sentences that allow you to practice choosing between something and anything.

I will rewrite your sentences to make them more plausible, and indicate which is better (something/anything). If a different formulation would be better, I'll use that instead.

a) I wish Mary hadn't told you that John bought something in that shop.


I wish Mary had told you that John didn't buy anything in that shop.

b) I don't think anyone on the tour bus would have bought anything from that overpriced shop if the bus hadn't stopped for lunch at the bagel place next door.

c) I'm sorry you understood John to have invited some undergrads to your party. That was a misunderstanding. Actually, they were gate crashers. It's true that John knows them from his soccer league, but he didn't invite them and he didn't even tell them about your party. He's planning to ask them tomorrow how they found out about it.

d) I'm sorry to hear that you've heard the rumor that someone is going around slandering you.

e) The commissioner of education held a press conference to defend the presence of this book on the state's suggested reading list for 11th grade. In a prepared statement, she expressed profound regret that some school districts have banned it. She added, "It is a shame that in this day and age, any school would ban any book." But she emphasized that the book is not a required part of the curriculum. She said that teachers and principals are free to develop their own curriculum.

  • Thank you. It may well be that the original sentences were contrived, but I have to say that it was important for me that the word with "any"/"some" was in an embedded clause inside an embedded clause. I think that "John regrets that he said anything" is grammatical; but, would it be if there was another level of embedding in between? This is what the original examples are about. But, again, thank you. – Robert Trujillo Oct 13 '19 at 13:43
  • @RobertTrujillo - Well, I tried to give you some examples with some embedding. Did they help at all? // Basically, as Edwin said, most of your original examples would normally use "something," but in principle "anything" could be used for emphasis. – aparente001 Oct 13 '19 at 13:45
  • Yes, that's true, and your examples are very interesting to me, since they have a lot of context and they indeed sound much more natural. Thank you very much! – Robert Trujillo Oct 13 '19 at 14:04
  • @RobertTrujillo - Whew. Glad I found a way to help. – aparente001 Oct 13 '19 at 14:11
  • Specific feedback from the downvoter would be appreciated. – aparente001 Oct 13 '19 at 15:27

I have chosen two of your sentences to explain:

I regret that Mary said that John had bought something in that shop. Mary said he bought something and you regret that. It sounds to me like John wasn't supposed to buy anything and Mary has told on him. John regrets he bought anything, meaning he should'd have bought anything at all.

She regrets that {someone / anyone} has read this book.

She regrets someone has read this book means that a specific person has read it and she regrets it. Who is "someone"?

She regrets anyone has read this book means the book was not meant to be read by anyone, it is private.


Any- form mainly used in negative sentences, All of the sentences above are in any- form.

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    Max, I appreciate your good-hearted willingness to help others. However, I want to warn you that many of the participants at ELU are quite rigorous when evaluating an answer. One has to include at least one reference to a reputable source. Otherwise, if you just want to help someone informally, it is better to write a comment, rather than an answer. – aparente001 Oct 13 '19 at 4:06
  • Sorry, I want to write a comment, but I need at least 50 reputations to write a comment and I do not have. – Max Chan Oct 13 '19 at 4:31
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    You can build up your reputation to 50 with a bit of patience. – aparente001 Oct 13 '19 at 5:26
  • Thank you Max and aparente001. Regarding the answer by Max, I have to say that, in fact, there is no explicit negation in the original examples in my question. This is why it is interesting that, at least in some similar cases (like "John regrets that he said anything"), a word with "any-" can be used. However, it is my impression (and the other answers tend to coincide) that, with an extra level of embedding, the elements with "any-" are clearly worse. Thank you, in any case. – Robert Trujillo Oct 13 '19 at 14:43

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