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Could you tell me something about your family?

Does it make any sense if anything is used instead of something here? Are there any differences?

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    Have you looked at 'anything' and 'something' in a dictionary, and compared the meanings and examples of use? If so, what did you not understand? Jul 9, 2023 at 11:47
  • Anything is used instead of something in negative sentences and in questions. But something works in this interrogative Sentence. So what I want to figure out are the differences.
    – Jones
    Jul 9, 2023 at 12:16
  • @Jones The description of your research belongs in the question, not in a comment. (If someone wants to answer this question a year from now after comments have been deleted, that information may be useful for him or her.) Jul 9, 2023 at 22:22

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Both "something" and "anything" can be used in questions, but with different functions.

A question with "something" implies the speaker expects the answer "yes". A question with "anything" doesn't imply any expected answer.

For instance, at the beginning of a meal in a restaurant, the server should ask, "Can I get you something to drink?" They ask with "something" because almost everyone who goes to a restaurant orders something to drink first, even if it's just a glass of water. To ask with "anything" would be weird because it sounds like the server has no idea whether people are going to order drinks or not.

But at the end of the meal, the server might ask, "Would you like anything for dessert?" They ask with "anything" because someone might want dessert, but normally people don't have desserts at a restaurant. If the server asks with "something", it will sound very pushy, like they're suggesting everyone has dessert, so they expect people to buy some.

So, in your context, if you want someone to tell you something about their family, it's normal to expect they will be able and happy to do so, so it's better to ask with "something". If you ask with "anything", it sounds like you're unsure whether that person can talk about their family at all. This would only make sense if you know the person hates their family or can hardly remember their family.

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Dr. Watson points at a scratch on a table, and says to Sherlock Holmes:

Look at that scratch. Now, that's something!

But Holmes might reply with disdain:

That scratch could mean anything.

Watson is saying "that scratch is an important clue". Holmes is saying "It may have no significance whatsoever to this case."

So the question "Can you tell me something about your family?" is asking you to relate significant details about your family. For example, "My mother is a singer and my father plays the tuba. My sister is an acrobat. I like to study ants."

A detective trying to solve a crime without any clues might ask the people who live in the neighborhood, "Can you tell me anything about that evening?" That is, some fact, no matter how insignificant or irrelevant it may seem to you.

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