using "some" and "any"


The basic rule is : use "some" when making a statement ; use "any
" when asking a question.

But there are so many exceptions.....

Is there a more comprehensive rule ?

asked Jan 30 '13 at 13:49 Roland Sayer New member

1 answer


I am an English teacher in Japan, and several of my students were recently confused about this point.  I eventually came up with this rule-of-thumb, which I have not seen spelled out in any grammar textbook but it does seem to work well:


(1) if the question is asking for information only, use any (or anyone, anything, etc.):


Do we have any coffee, or should I buy some more at the grocery store?

Do you know any French people?

Do you know anyone who knows sign language?

Do you know anything about the Syrian civil war?




(2) if the question is a request for some action to be done, or for permission for the questioner to do some action, use some (or someone, something, etc.):


Can I have some coffee?

Would you like some coffee?

Can you introduce me to some of your French friends?

Would you like to meet some of my French friends?

Can you teach me some sign language?

Would you like me to teach you some sign language?

Can you explain something I read in the newspaper today about the Syrian civil war?

Would you like me to give you some basic facts about the Syrian war?


I hope this helps. 

link edited Jan 30 '13 at 15:03 Shawn Mooney Expert

Rules & exceptions - I'm glad I'm not trying to learn English as a second language! Here's a wrench for you Shawn.

Would you like some coffee?

Would you like any of these cookies?

The second question fits your (2) scenario, but it uses any just fine.

Patty TJan 30 '13 at 18:07

Patty, I don't think "Would you like any of these cookies?" is a very natural way to ask the question,
but I do agree that it is grammatical. "Would you like a cookie" or "Would you like some cookies"
is much more common. So far, I haven't been convinced to throw out or modify my rule of thumb.


Shawn MooneyJan 31 '13 at 06:54

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