Difference between Anything and Everything

Key Difference: Anything means any one thing, while everything includes all things seen and unseen. ‘Anything’ means any one or two things out of list of things, while ‘everything’ means all the things on a list.

I think everyone can agree at one point or the other that English is a very complicated language, where similar words have complete different meaning and different words can mean the exact same thing. Such confusion also arises when deciding to use ‘everything’ and ‘anything’. These words have completely different definitions, and though people use them on a daily basis, there is no set explanation about when such words should be used.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary ‘anything’ means, “any thing whatever; any such thing.” ‘Everything’ is defined as, “all that exists; all that relates to the subject; all that is important.” ‘Anything’, in most cases, is used as to describe singularity and plurality, where anything means any one or two things out of list of things, while ‘everything’ is used to solely describe plurality, where everything on a list means all the objects that are on that list. Everything is mostly all the things that exist, seen and unseen; all the things that are.

These words are much easier to explain by using them in different contexts making them simpler to understand. Let’s take Matt as an example; Matt is given a grocery list and is asked a) to bring everything on that list and b) to bring anything on the list. In the first scenario, Matt is expected to buy all the things that are given on the list, while in the second scenario Matt is only expected to purchase one or two things from the list.

Another example: John said, “I’ll do everything but go bowling.” OR John said, “I’ll do anything but go bowling.” In the first example, John will do everything that is asked of him but will not go bowling, while in the second example, John will do anything, including things that are not asked of him, rather than go bowling. In this everything refers to all the things that are asked of him to do, while anything refers to all the tasks he is asked including all the tasks he has not been asked to do.

These terms have complete different meanings and are not synonymous. They are also used very differently and should not be interchanged.

Image Courtesy: nyu.edu, freeartlondon.files.wordpress.com

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If my husband says "I will give you anything, even my dying breath", as a statement of love, does that mean that he will give me anything & everything that I ask, or is his "anything" subjective to only his whims?

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