When we want to call someone on their high horse, we often (at least in India) use -

You know what, he thinks that he is something

For instance, in an office, if someone behaves like a boss, the above mentioned sentence is not uncommon.

The phrase is used for anyone -he, she, I, you...and so on.

My question is, when we think, we never think of being something; yes, we may think of being 'someone' - *king, queen, boss, tycoon, scientist etc.

Continuing the above example, we may get the answer as mentioned below..

You know what, he thinks that he is something ~ Oh. What does he think?
He thinks that he's the boss of the company!

'boss' a 'thing'?

Is it proper to use -

'He thinks that he's someone?'

Tagging this with InE, in case, this is new to others.

  • I'm not very sure about "he's something", but "He's quite something" is not uncommon. As for your "He thinks that he's someone?'", I'd phrase it as: "Does he think he really is somebody?" (which is not a nice thing to say, though). Jan 9, 2015 at 7:34

4 Answers 4


It's definetively not an InE-thing, as I remember Robert de Niro saying "You are something!" - Playing an italo-american mafioso in the movie "Analyze this" (this was the first snippet I came across, starting ca. 0:55).

I would assume that it's very colloquial, though. Certainly not "proper" english fit to be written like this.

  • Wow! Great memory! That is, or you are, 'something else' to remember that. (And sorry about my edit to your post. I rolled it back, because I wasn't sure if I actually made a correction or not). (unsure of your intention)
    – user6951
    Jan 9, 2015 at 11:44

'Something' for a 'living being'?

We often use what to refer to things such as titles, professions.

Hey, little boy, what do you want to be when you grow up?

I wanna be king of England.
I want to be boss of a huge corporation.
I want to be president of my own fan club.
I want to be a scientist.
Scientist, no wait, a farmer, no, a ballet dancer. Aw heck, I don't know, but I want to be something.

Not who do you want to be? (I want to be Johnny Depp when I grow up!)

Some of these are titles, and titles are things. (boss, king, queen). King George means, firstly, the person who has the title king. If a king is overthrown, that person no longer holds the title king--but he's still a person. . If my boss gets fired, he is no longer the person who holds the position of boss. You could then extend the meaning to other roles, such as scientist.

Is it proper to use 'He thinks that he's someone?

Yes, why not?

He thinks he's Johnny Depp.
He thinks he's the boss (person holding the position of boss).

  • Yes, this is better! +1 :)
    – Maulik V
    Jan 10, 2015 at 5:20

In AmE, at least, we have a similar phrase applied to people:

That guy is something else.

unusual, especially extremely good or extremely bad

That guy is really something. This is just a short form of the above.

This can get further shortened to

That guy is something.

Robert De Niro's use of you're something in the clip posted by Stephie shows the expression as meaning very good. So the expression does not always mean something negative. However, I think the negative meaning is more common.

We have a common dialog that goes:

A: Man, that guy is really something , isn't he?
B: Yeah, he's "something" all right; I don't know what he is, but he's something.

This is my guess: All these uses of something to refer to a person may be just to express the 'strangeness' of the person, whether good or bad. Like he's an alien (nonhuman) or something, from another world.

However, we have the very common saying:

He is something of an actor. Meaning, per ODO, see phrases to some degree.

Or even

He has something of the actor in him.

Both these mean he is not a great or professional actor, but somewhat of an actor.

For instance, concerning Robert De Niro, he is not something of an actor, he's the real deal, a real actor, the frickin best actor ever! (for example)

  • Not exactly. However, this answer clarifies my question. Something else is more about the adjective -good/bad. I'm asking in the context of telling someone who thinks to be someone and not something. Take that boss' example and fit into this answer, it won't go smooth! :) And, I know the use of something of... quite well; it's not exactly I'm looking for.
    – Maulik V
    Jan 9, 2015 at 12:25
  • That guy is something. Yeah, he's a real boss.
    – user6951
    Jan 9, 2015 at 13:14

You occasionally run across somebody used this way, often in contrast with nobody. Here’s an example from a contemporary novel:

“You know,” said Rober with rare introspection, “Henry Cabot wouldn’t be such a bad guy if he were aware of what a nobody he is. Henry’s problem is that he thinks he’s somebody because he’s one little step higher on the food chain than us and he thinks that’s something. But he’s really no better off than us. He’s got a lot more in common with us than he does the people who really own the company. Henry’s a nobody who’s been fooled into thinking he’s a somebody.” — Stephen Brown, The Traveling Jesus Roadshow

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