The usage of 'some'


A. Some student knows how to solve the problem.

B. Some students know how to solve the problem.


I think the sentence 'B' is correct. then, what about 'A'

Is it correct? If so, what's the difference in meaning between A and B ?

asked Jul 07 '12 at 12:03 gavotte78 New member

4 answers


I am going to disagree with Ian on this one. “Some” is not automatically plural. To see why, let’s start with the dictionary.

Both the Oxford Online (incorporating OED2) and Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionaries call “some” a determiner, an adjective, an indefinite pronoun, and an adverb. The indefinite pronouns all, any, more, most, none, and some can be singular or plural, depending on how they are used. Indefinite pronouns  are singular when the noun they substitute for is non-countable and plural when countable. Because “student/students” is a countable noun, the noun and verb must be plural – “some students know”. This is the structure that Ian references in his answer.

Some indefinite pronouns may also be used as determiners: one, each, either, neither, some, any, one, all, both, few, several, many, and most. Let’s look again to the dictionary. Sense #2 in both OED and Merriam-Webster’s defines “some” as a determiner that refers to someone or something that is unknown or unspecified. In this usage (sentence #A), is “some” singular or plural?

Now, let’s look at Swan’s Practical English Usage (Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 2005). To quote Swan (546.8): “some” can refer to an unknown person or thing (usually with a singular countable noun). We can use this structure to suggest that we are not interested in somebody or something or that we do not think much of him/her/it.


I rest my case. Both #A and #B are correct, albeit with different meanings.  

link edited Jul 07 '12 at 23:49 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thanks Jeff!

ianJul 08 '12 at 09:42

Thank you so much

gavotte78Jul 09 '12 at 15:01

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Some student is singular and means that one student, but you don't know which student, knows how to solve the problem.


Some students is plural and means that more than one student knows.

link comment answered Jul 07 '12 at 12:42 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Sentence A is 'wrong' as it uses 'Some student...' which is plural/singular mixed, when it should be 'A student....' singular/singular.  Notice the switch of the 's' - a student knowS, some studentS know, signifying the singular/plural difference correctly.  In short, sentence A is contradictory.  


Perhaps ot would help to consider the correct, full version of sentence B which would/should be 'Some (of the) students know how to solve the problem.'  You can NOT have some (of the) student, which is singular, but can have some of the students (plural).


Hope that helps!

link answered Jul 07 '12 at 17:16 ian New member

I beg to disagree. Please see my second answer.

Jeff PribylJul 07 '12 at 23:48

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Okay, seems like Jeff Pribyl has explained the answer, in far more detail.  


Sorry, my intention was to provide an answer in more 'lay' terms that someone with less knowledge of English could (more quickly) understand.  Whilst I feel the 2 other answers provided explain the differences very well, I also felt they left something to be understood by the person posing the question, and may have indeed confused them further.


Apologies if my answer used terms such as 'correct' or 'wrong' that were taken figuratively, and where Jeff has corrected me, I fully accept.


Hopefully my answer helped explain the differences somewhat, despite it's shortcomings.

link answered Jul 08 '12 at 09:42 ian New member

What I needed on that,telling the truth, was an expert's opinion, but you also helped me a lot.I really appreciate it. thanks

gavotte78Jul 09 '12 at 14:46

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