Somebody anybody nobody etc

It’s essential that you get this right. Mixing up anybody-nobody sounds terrible in English and all it takes is a bit of study and a bit of thought.

The basic rule is this:

Use nobody/no-one as the subject in statements. Note that the verb is in the positive form and takes third person e.g. Nobody likes homework.

Use anybody/anyone as the subject in questions. Note that the verb is in the positive form and takes third person e.g. Q: Does anybody here play chess?

Use anybody/anyone as the object in negative statements e.g. I don’t like anybody at work.

Use somebody/someone as both the subject and the object in affirmative statements. e.g. Someone has to do it. // She must have told someone!

However, there is a bit more to it than that.

Use somebody/someone etc for offers and requests e.g. Would you like somebody to pick you up? // Shall we send someone to pick you up? // Would you like something to drink?

Note: Would you like anything to drink? and Would you like something to drink? is NOT THE SAME. The first is a question. The second is an offer.

Anybody/anyone can also be the subject of a sentence when the meaning is ‘every single person in the whole world’ e.g. Anyone can learn to speak English. Note: we do NOT typically use ‘everyone’ here, we prefer ‘anyone’. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, it just is!

There is probably even more to it than that, but let’s leave it there for now. Feel free to post comments and suggestions that add more knowledge on the topic.

Here’s a little story that you often find stuck on someone’s wall in the office. It helps illustrate the usage of these words.

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done

Here are some links for further reading and exercises you can do online.

BBC // Call this a party? // British Council // Autoenglish





About Robert D. E. Senior

Fully qualified and experienced Professional English teacher / trainer UK native speaker BA (hons, first class) Linguistics and TEFL 15 years experience in UK, Spain and Austria FCE - CAE - CPE - BEC V - BEC H - TOEFL - IELTS Business, Academic and General English
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