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I've seen the phrase "quoi que ce soit" being used, which translates into "anything at all" according to the dictionary, for example:

Vous devriez dire «bonjour» avant de dire quoi que ce soit d'autre

However, is it also possible to use "n'importe quoi" here:

Vous devriez dire «bonjour» avant de dire n'importe quoi d'autre

Is there any specific rule to using one over the other? Or is it just that "quoi que ce soit" is more emphatic?

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« Quoi que ce soit » tends to be used in a negative sentence or in an if-clause, emphasising the notion of the smallest amount possible: "anything (+ at all!)" = "even the slightest bit!".

I would say something like:

1 : Je ne m'attendais pas à ce qu'il puisse accomplir quoi que ce soit par lui-même.

= "I didn’t expect he could achieve anything (at all) on his own."

2 : S'il lui arrivait quoi que ce soit, je t’en tiendrais responsable.

= "If anything (at all) happened to him, I’d hold you responsible."


Although « n'importe quoi » too can be translated into "anything", this is more like "anything (of whatever kind)".

« n'importe quoi » = "whatever you choose will suffice; it doesn't matter"

« quoi que ce soit » = "even the slightest bit of something will affect the situation“.

So in the following instance, these two expressions are not interchangeable:

3 (o) : N'importe quoi fera l'affaire. = "Anything will do."

(x) : Quoi que ce soit fera l'affaire.


As for your example sentences:

avant de dire quoi que ce soit d'autre = "before saying even the slightest bit of anything else"

vs : avant de dire n'importe quoi d'autre = "before saying whatever else (of whatever kind)"

  • A brilliant explanation! The difference can be subtle, but it's an important distinction. Thank you. :) – craig_h Nov 28 '16 at 15:47

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