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Some / Any / ‘ o Article’

(This is an extract from my book: ‘A’ and ‘The’ Explained).

We can use some, any or ‘no article’ (Ø) before plural or uncountable nouns. They all mean something
similar to a/an before a singular noun. For example:

• Can I have a banana? [One banana, but any one is okay.]

• Can I have some bananas? [More than one banana, but any small group is okay.]

The difference between ‘some’ and ‘no article’:

Often, there isn’t a big difference in meaning between ‘no article’ and ‘some’. However, we use
‘some’ when we are talking about a limited number or amount (but we don’t know or we don’t want to
say the exact quantity).

‘Some’ means ‘a certain number of’ or ‘a certain amount of’. We don’t use ‘some’ if we are talking
about something in general or thinking about it as a category. When we use ‘some’, we don’t say the
exact quantity, but we could probably find it out if we needed to. For example:

• Can you buy some milk? [We don’t know exactly how much, but I’m talking about a certain
amount of milk – I don’t want all the milk in the world.]

On the other hand, we use ‘no article’ when we aren’t thinking about the quantity. It’s used to talk
about the noun as a category, rather than a certain amount of it:

• We need Ø milk to make pancakes. [I’m thinking about milk as a category. I’m not thinking
about a certain amount of milk.]

More examples:

• We need to buy Ø coffee [I’m talking about coffee as a category, not thinking about the
amount].

• Would you like some coffee? [I mean a certain amount of coffee, probably a cup.]

• I ate some bread [I mean a certain amount of bread].

• I ate Ø bread [not pasta or rice].

Remember that often it doesn’t make a big difference:

• Do you want Ø tea? [I’m not thinking about the amount.]

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• Do you want some tea? [I’m thinking about the amount, but the meaning is really the same as
the first sentence.]

The difference between ‘some’ and ‘any’:

Generally, we use ‘any’ in the same way as ‘some’: when we are thinking about a certain amount or
number of something. Remember, usually both ‘some’ and ‘any’ can only be used with plural
countable nouns or uncountable nouns, but not usually with singular countable nouns.

We usually use ‘some’ with affirmative (positive) sentences and ‘any’ with negatives and questions:

• She bought some tomatoes [positive sentence].

• She didn’t buy any tomatoes [negative sentence].

• Did she buy any tomatoes [question]?

However, there are some exceptions to this.

1. ‘Any’ can be used in a positive sentence to mean ‘it’s not important which one’. When we use ‘any’
in this way, it’s most often used with singular countable nouns:

• You can take any bus.

• Pass me any glass.

• Come over any Sunday.

2. ‘Any’ can also be used in positive sentences that have a negative feeling, for example if they
include ‘never’, ‘hardly’, ‘without’:

• She never eats any fruit.

• We hardly watch any television.

• Julia left the house without any money.

3. ‘Some’ can be used in questions when we expect that the answer will be ‘yes’. This is very common
in offers and requests:

• Would you like some coffee?

• Do you want some sandwiches?

• Could you give me some help?

• Could you pass me some sugar?

Compare the following two sentences:

• Do you have any letters for me? [This is a real question. I don’t know if you have any letters
or not.]

• Do you have some letters for me? [I think you do, so I’m expecting that you will say ‘yes’.]

© 2013 www.perfect-english-grammar.com. May be freely copied for personal or classroom use.


Some / Any / ‘ o Article’ Exercise 1

(This is an extract from my book: ‘A’ and ‘The’ Explained).

Fill the gap with ‘some’ or ‘no article’ (Ø).

1. Can you buy ______ pasta? [I’m thinking of the amount we need for tonight.]

2. We need ______ mushrooms [I’m not thinking about the amount].

3. John drinks ______ coffee every morning [coffee, not tea].

4. Add ______ water to the soup if it’s too thick [a certain amount of water].

5. I really want ______ tea – could you get me a cup?

6. We could have ______ rice for dinner [rice, not pasta].

7. I ate ______ bread and two eggs for lunch [I’m thinking about the amount].

8. She bought ______ new furniture [a certain amount of furniture].

9. Did you get ______ carrots? [I’m not thinking about the amount.]

10. I’d like _______ tea, please! [Tea, not juice or coffee.]

© 2013 www.perfect-english-grammar.com.
May be freely copied for personal or classroom use.
Answers to Some / Any / ‘ o Article’ Exercise 1

1. Can you buy some pasta? [I’m thinking of the amount we need for tonight.]

2. We need Ø mushrooms [I’m not thinking about the amount].

3. John drinks Ø coffee every morning [coffee, not tea].

4. Add some water to the soup if it’s too thick [a certain amount of water].

5. I really want some tea – could you get me a cup?

6. We could have Ø rice for dinner [rice, not pasta].

7. I ate some bread and two eggs for lunch [I’m thinking about the amount].

8. She bought some new furniture [a certain amount of furniture].

9. Did you get Ø carrots? [I’m not thinking about the amount.]

10. I’d like Ø tea, please! [Tea, not juice or coffee.]

© 2013 www.perfect-english-grammar.com.
May be freely copied for personal or classroom use.
Some / Any / ‘ o Article’ Exercise 2
(This is an extract from my book: ‘A’ and ‘The’ Explained).

Fill the gap with ‘some’ or ‘any’.

1. Have we got ______ bread? [A real question, I have no idea.]

2. ______ student will tell you that they don’t have enough money [it doesn’t matter which student].

3. We’ve got ______ furniture, but we still need a table.

4. She bought ______ new clothes.

5. You can buy beer in ______ pub [it doesn’t matter which pub].

6. Can I have ______ more juice? [I expect you will say ‘yes’.]

7. Did you buy ______ juice? [I have no idea, this is a real question.]

8. I can speak ______ French.

9. Would you like ______ tea? [An offer – I think you will say ‘yes’.]

10. In London in the winter there’s hardly ______ sunlight.

11. Go into ______ shop on the high street and ask [it doesn’t matter which shop].

12. Would you like ______ more meat? [An offer – I think you will say ‘yes’.]

13. There’s ______ money in my handbag.

14. Did you buy ______ chicken? [I expect you will say ‘yes’, because we talked about it before.]

15. I don’t have ______ sunblock with me.

16. She never drinks ______ water.

17. Do you have ______ sugar? [I expect you will say ‘yes’, because usually you have sugar.]

18. It’s hard in a new city without ______ friends.

19. I didn’t find ______ problems.

20. Could you give me ______ paper? [A request – I expect you will say ‘yes’.]

© 2013 www.perfect-english-grammar.com. May be freely copied for personal or classroom use.


Answers to Some / Any / ‘ o Article’ Exercise 2

1. Have we got any bread? [A real question, I have no idea.]

2. Any student will tell you that they don’t have enough money [it doesn’t matter which student].

3. We’ve got some furniture, but we still need a table.

4. She bought some new clothes.

5. You can buy beer in any pub [it doesn’t matter which pub].

6. Can I have some more juice? [I expect you will say ‘yes’.]

7. Did you buy any juice? [I have no idea, this is a real question.]

8. I can speak some French.

9. Would you like some tea? [An offer – I think you will say ‘yes’.]

10. In London in the winter there’s hardly any sunlight.

11. Go into any shop on the high street and ask [it doesn’t matter which shop].

12. Would you like some more meat? [An offer – I think you will say ‘yes’.]

13. There’s some money in my handbag.

14. Did you buy some chicken? [I expect you will say ‘yes’ because we talked about it before.]

15. I don’t have any sunblock with me.

16. She never drinks any water.

17. Do you have some sugar? [I expect you will say ‘yes’, because usually you have sugar.]

18. It’s hard in a new city without any friends.

19. I didn’t find any problems.

20. Could you give me some paper? [A request – I expect you will say ‘yes’.]

© 2013 www.perfect-english-grammar.com. May be freely copied for personal or classroom use.