English Usage & Grammar Notes

May 14, 2006

The Use of Some and Any

Filed under: Uncategorized — hkeol @ 3:15 am

The determiners some and any have slightly different meanings. The use of the wordsome generally implies a belief in the existence of the object or objects under consideration, whereas the use of the word any may imply a doubt about the existenceof the object or objects under consideration.

The words some, somebody, someone, something and somewhere are used in affirmative statements, as well as in polite questions and questions expecting an affirmative reply.
e.g. Affirmative Statement: I saw some birds in the park.
      Polite Question: Would you like some tea?
      Affirmative Reply Expected: You seem worried. Is something wrong?

In contrast, the words any, anybody, anyone, anything and anywhere are used in questions and negative statements, as well as in affirmative statements referring in an indefinite way to a type of object, without specifying a particular object.
e.g. Question: Did you see any birds in the park?
      Negative Statement: I do not know anyone here.
      Indefinite Reference: Any drug store can supply you with aspirin.

The words some, somebody, someone, something and somewhere usually cannot be used in a negative statement. If it is desired to change a clause beginning with the word some so that it expresses a negative meaning, some may be changed to no or none, depending on whether an adjective or pronoun is required.

In the following example, some is used as an adjective modifying the noun books. In order to change the sentence to express a negative meaning, some is replaced by the adjective no.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Some books were left on the shelf.
      Negative Meaning: No books were left on the shelf.

In the following example, some is used as a pronoun. In order to change the sentence to express a negative meaning, some is replaced by the pronoun none.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Some of the visitors arrived late.
      Negative Meaning: None of the visitors arrived late.

Similarly, if it is desired to change a clause beginning with somebody, someone, something or somewhere so that it expresses a negative meaning, these words may be replaced by nobody, no one, nothing and nowhere, respectively.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: Someone left a message.
      Negative Meaning: No one left a message.

      Affirmative Meaning: Something has happened.
      Negative Meaning: Nothing has happened.

A sentence containing the word some, in which some does not occur at the beginning of a clause, can be changed to express a negative meaning by changing the sentence to a negative statement using not, and by changing some to any.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: I bought some potatoes.
      Negative Meaning: I did not buy any potatoes.

      Affirmative Meaning: We will copy some of the recipes.
      Negative Meaning: We will not copy any of the recipes.

It is possible to use no or none in such sentences instead of the construction with not … any.
e.g. I bought no potatoes.
      We will copy none of the recipes.
However, in modern English, the construction with not … any is more often used than the construction with no or none.

Similarly, a sentence containing the word somebody, someone, something or somewhere, in which the word beginning with some does not occur at the beginning of a clause, can be changed to express a negative meaning by changing the sentence to a negative statement using not, and by changing the word beginning with some to the corresponding word beginning with any.
e.g. Affirmative Meaning: I met someone I used to know.
      Negative Meaning: I did not meet anyone I used to know.

      Affirmative Meaning: We will buy something.
      Negative Meaning: We will not buy anything.

In such sentences, nobody, no one, nothing or nowhere may be used instead of a negative statement with not and the word anybody, anyone, anything or anywhere.
e.g. I met no one I used to know.
      We will buy nothing.
However, the construction with not is more often used.

HKEOL

Learning & Publication Center

Kowlooon – Hong Kong

dwjo@netvigator.com

2799 4728

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