What is the difference in the meaning of the following two sentences with different pronouns

You must be cautious and make a few discrete enquiries about the firm before you sign anything.

You must be cautious and make a few discrete enquiries about the firm before you sign something.

Is the first of the two wrong?

Also I think instead of discrete discreet would be more appropriate

  • Note that discrete (individually separate and distinct.) means something completely different from discreet. They are homonyms: ** words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins.** – Ronald Sole Jun 8 '20 at 14:18

You are absolutely correct that "discreet" is the word you want here. Discreet means subtle or intentionally unobtrusive.

As for something vs anything, anything is definitely the word I would use here. Anything is generally used in negative senses and can apply whether or not it is certain that the thing being referenced even exists. An example would be:

Your wife is suing for divorce and sent you some papers? Please tell me you didn't sign anything since you don't have your own lawyer yet!

Something is generally used as a pronoun to refer to a specific undetermined thing.

Well, I did sign something but I can't remember what it was.

  • I would regard "Don't sign anything" as stronger than "Don't sign something". Similarly "Don't start something unless you can finish it" is not as strong as "Don't start anything unless you can finish it". – Peter Jun 8 '20 at 15:01
  • @Peter "Don't sign something" by itself is very awkward sounding to me and I wouldn't use it. – Kevin Jun 8 '20 at 16:30
  • Agreed. In fact I can't think of a verb where "don't verb something" works on its own. – Peter Jun 8 '20 at 22:37

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