"Vem som helst"


January 20, 2015

This discussion is locked.


Could someone explain this phrase


It’s just a set phrase. Vem som helst is ’anyone’, när som helst is ’whenever’, var som helst is ’wherever’ etc.


It looked extremely weird at first glance, but then I suddenly realized that the Russian translations are somewhat similar: кто угодно = vem som helst = "anyone", когда угодно = när som helst = "whenever", где угодно = var som helst = "wherever" :-)


How do you say Whatever then ?


Vad som helst


Vem som helst is also "Whoever"? sorry i am not english


Yes, that's correct. :)


Whoever / whomever. !


We keep getting this response but that's not how language works. There is still a history and etymology to the phrase (I'm told there's a Swedish radio program that explores these things). "It's a set phrase" is not an answer.


There are always explanations behind the set phrases, but it is not everyone’s interest to learn the etymology of everything they learn if their goal is just to converse in the language.

Some want to go deeper and learn the story behind the phrases, and that’s fine, but I think a synchronic answer as the one above is also valid and a real answer, beside a diachronic one. You can ask us what the literal meaning or the etymology is if you want to know, but it’s not 100% sure that we know ourselves everytime.

Helst is the superlative form of gärna and it’s hard to translate to English but maybe something like ’most preferrably’. It is also found in the nowadays somewhat uncommon compound words like närhelst and vadhelst as in ”du kan komma närhelst du vill” (roughly: ’you can come whenever you prefer’) or in expressions like the ones I mentioned above as ’när som helst’ or ’vad som helst’.

I’m not entirely sure how it developed to be used in these phrases however.


Well that would make sense in most of European semiotics : if gärna (German 'gern(e)', I guess) means "with pleasure", "preferably", then helst may have a basic meaning as : "as you better like", German "beliebig", Fr. "comme on veut"...


I'm almost always interested in the diachronic answers :). I feel it is something that helps make Duolingo a really special and enriching learning experience. Tack!


I also don't know the origin of these phrases. As a native speaker, my feeling is just that they are units, I don't really feel there's anything more to them.
(compare to expressions like en björntjänst ['a disservice', literally 'a bear's favor'], where I have a clear idea why it's like that)

As Lundgren8 said, in some cases helst has historically had the meaning ever as in whenever or whoever in English, so if I were to translate it as literally as possible, maybe I'd just say they're like whoever in English, only we write them apart and add an 'as' in between.


These phrases look to me like they survived in English in compound form as "whosoever", "whatsoever", etc. As currently spoken, however, they translate to the shorter "whoever" and "whatever".


Funny, we also have "en björntjänst" in Polish (an identical expression) - niedźwiedzia przysługa. I've never thought about it though I use it from time to time.


It's from a fable by Jean de La Fontaine about a bear who wants to help his gardener friend by killing a fly which was sitting on the gardener's face, unfortunately the bear was so strong he killed the gardener too :.(


Alright. Sorry if I came off combative. It just seemed like such a cop-out and contrary to the goal of learning. I understand that not everyone is an etymologist


I'm glad you asked, it opened a dialog which I found informative and interesting - "a bear's favor"? "Whatsoever"? Great.


How about: -whoever- as a closer translation. It is used in my part of the english speaking world.


Both are accepted


I assume whomever is also accepted (even if its use is somewhat controversial in English)?


One of my favourite songs and now I know what the title means at least!



How's this different to "någon"?


vem som helst is anyone, and någon is someone. There's some overlap, as in English.


It seems like som helst can be added to different words, and the whole constuction then means "anyone", "anywhere", "any time" and so on...

I'm still getting used to it. This message may not be adding much to the discussion, but it can help me to reinforce it in my head :-)


Yes, it corresponds roughly to the English "-so-ever", as in e.g. "whosoever". :)


Great! I have just noticed another similarity with Dutch which might help me to memorize it:
wie dan ook (whoever)
waar dan ook (wherever)
hoe dan ook (anyway)

Two words added to a leading word - bingo!

Tack så mycket! :-D


Oh I see. So is "någon" strictly "someone" in every expression?


No, there's some overlap, as noted.


the clues given below the phrase show one possible answer as 'just anybody' but then this is marked as wrong.


Hints are given for all contexts, so not all hints work everywhere. You need to translate vem som helst as just anybody when there is a negation, otherwise not. There's a longer explanation somewhere else that I can't find right now, but here's one example: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/6192255


So am I correct in thinking that "inte vem som helst" means "not just anyone" rather than "not anyone" which would imply "no one"?


Is inte när som helst "not just anywhere"?


no, 'not just anytime' – with 'anywhere' it becomes inte var som helst


Whoops, dumb mistake. Thanks.


Thank you I can see there is a difference. It's just difficult to pick the right phrase sometimes when they seem to be interchangeable and mean much the same.


would it be wrong to translate this as "anyone at all"?


It could be argued either way, really.


So, would a Swede use "Vad som helst!" as "Whatever!" in an agitated tone when we don't agree with someone?


No, that doesn't work at all. I don't even think you'd be understood.


I guess it works a bit like Spanish "qualquiera", literally/historically "whom/which one may want"


Or the English "whosoever".


different from någon?


vem som helst: anyone, whoever någon: somebody


What is the difference between "vem som helst" and "någon"? As per the introductory text for Determiners, någon can also mean anyone.


vem som helst has a meaning more like 'whoever', 'whosoever', it's a wider category which is open to "each and every" one.
någon is more specific. It can translate into English as either somebody or anybody depending on context, because we don't have the same rules for how they are distributed.

Vem som helst får komma – Anyone may come, Just anyone may come, Whoever may come
Någon kan komma – Someone might come
Kommer någon att komma? – Will anyone come? Will someone come?


Could you please elaborate on the different connotations of vem som helst and någon? I'm not 100% sure how to identify when or in what situations/circumstances I should use one or the other.

Is one more common than the other, or is one more formal? Are there particular situations where you would only use one and not the other? Or are they fairly interchangeable (in some cases)? I don't think I'm articulating my question very well, I just want to understand when it is and is not appropriate or natural-sounding to use vem som helst and någon I guess?

(I'm always worried about sounding like one of those people who think synonym entries in a thesaurus are all interchangeable when they're not and have distinct connotations that change the meaning or the sense of the sentence in question and stuff like that. I just want to make sure I understand the nuances of the synonyms I come across.)


I can relate it to the Dutch: 'Wie dan ook' Which is not a literal translation, that would be something like: 'Who than likewise'. But it helps me memorising the fixed expression.


can this translate to "whoever"?


Yes, that's also accepted.


Why is whomsoever incorrect? Is it to do with the case?


Probably just too obscure of a word for anyone to have thought of writing it...

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