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some cheese, any cheese

English translation: Most of the examples you provided make some sense in some situations, but not all.

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00:21 Mar 25, 2002
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary
English term or phrase: some cheese, any cheese
Just for fun, on a Sunday evening (BE: Monday morning). A French friend of mine, who spoke good English even before she moved to North America 20 years ago, asked me suddenly out of the blue "When do you say 'some cheese' and when do you say 'any cheese'?"

I´ve been playing with this question for a couple of years now, and I still don´t know. Sometimes it can be either and it makes no difference, sometimes it can be either and it has a slightly or completely different meaning, sometimes it has to be 'some', and sometimes it has to be 'any'.

But when?

E.g.:

Would you like some cheese?
Would you like any cheese?
I put some cheese on a plate.
I put any cheese on a plate.
I don´t want some cheese.
I don´t want any cheese.
Some cheese is soft.
Any cheese is soft.
There is some cheese in the fridge.
There is any cheese in the fridge.

Anyone have any ideas?
Chris Rowson
Local time: 13:41
English translation:Most of the examples you provided make some sense in some situations, but not all.
Explanation:
Before laying some rules, it may be helpful to remind ourselves that many uses of "some" and "many" are purely idiomatic, i.e., in many cases, one cannot find a perfectly logical need for one or the other, but “standard” English usage seems to call for one or the other.

Now for some rules: "Some" refers to a subset of a defined set. The reference is formally indefinite, although the speaker may in his mind be referring to a specific subset.

"Any" either refers to an indefinite subset by way of emphasizing the indefiniteness, or provides an absolute denial of every subset.

That is probably a bit too abstruse, so let us use your own examples to illustrate how these abstract notions work:

1. Would you like some cheese?

Here "some" is used as part of an idiom. The sentence can stand perfectly on its own without "some," but in common, polite English usage, when offering someone something, it is almost obligatory to use "some."

2. Would you like any cheese?

This is not wrong. It just puts a slight twist on the tone of the question. The question could either be referring to "any" of a number of different kinds of cheese, or it could be an attempt to make sure that the initial declining of the offer was genuine and absolute. In this case, "Would you like any cheese?" means "Are you absolutely sure you do not want any at all?" The oral intonation may be critical here.

3. I put some cheese on a plate.

This is straightforward enough. Here, "some" refers in a formally indefinite manner to a definite quantity of cheese.

4. I put any cheese on a plate.

It is hard (but not impossible) to imagine a situation when one might say something like that. One may be rehearsing aloud a series of actions involving putting cheese (any cheese) on a plate. Here, "any" simply emphasizes the indefiniteness. Any kind or quantity would do.

5. I don't want some cheese.

The typical absolute refusal usually involves "any," not "some." So the sentence sounds a bit odd, unless the speaker is saying "I don't want just some of this cheese, but rather all of it." The speaker also may be evincing some sarcasm in response to the question, "Do you want some cheese?" Watch the intonation.

6. I don't want any cheese.

This is the standard absolute refusal. Without "any, "the sentence could be taken to mean, "I don't want cheese, but I want something else," assuming the situation warrants that interpretation (again, intonation is critical). The word "any" makes it clear that the speaker is specifically addressing a question about cheese, and that his declining is absolute.

7. Some cheese is soft.

In formal logic, we call this type of statement an "I" statement. It makes a judgment about a subset of the category "cheese" without necessarily making any judgment about the rest. The rest may either be soft or not soft. We cannot infer that without additional, (explicit or implicit) knowledge.

8. Any cheese is soft.

Here "any" is used in the sense of "all" to emphasize the absoluteness of the judgment.

9. There is some cheese in the fridge.

I think we have covered this type of construction already.

10. There is any cheese in the fridge.

Again, it would be difficult to find a situation where this sentence would not sound odd. In this case, I am not even going to try.

As you can see, language is treacherous in that sentences that may seem to violate a rule may actually be acceptable once we have figured out the intended meaning (sometimes from the social context, other times from the tone of delivery).

Fuad
Selected response from:

Fuad Yahya
Grading comment
Thankyou Fuad, and everyone. I still couldn´t answer my French friend´s question, but I certainly got some insights into my mother tongue from the various contributions.

I almost gave this to Mary, on the grounds that she mentioned music, but Fuad´s exposition is masterly. He even manages to make sense of some of the sentences I intended as being wrong/meaningless.

Yes, Berni, wonderful. :-)
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +5An attempt :-)xxxAnneM
4 +3Most of the examples you provided make some sense in some situations, but not all.Fuad Yahya
5 +1Do you want some cheese? Do you want any cheese?
Theodore Fink
4 +1See textxxxartemisia
4It's an interesting question.Michael Sebold
4depends on expected response (positive or negative )
Berni Armstrong


  

Answers


16 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
It's an interesting question.


Explanation:
I think that the definitions offered in Oxford for "any" and "some" provide solid guidance for usage differences.



Michael Sebold
Canada
Local time: 07:41
PRO pts in pair: 10
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18 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
depends on expected response (positive or negative )


Explanation:
Hi Chris,

When you genuinely do not know the answer you should use "any".

When you suspect the answer will be "Yes" - as in "would you like to try some of my Dad's home-made beer?" You use "some".

That takes care of the question side... Some of your other examples strike me as frequently used, but basically grammatically unsound English.

"some" should not generally be used in negatives, but perhaps is OK in the case sugested below:

"I don't want some cheese, I want some ham!"
In reply to "Do you want some cheese?"

Wonderful language, isn't it?


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2002-03-25 00:43:33 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Some of your other examples clearly show the difference between. \"Some\" = a few. and \"Any\" = all

Berni Armstrong
Local time: 13:41
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 16
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29 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
An attempt :-)


Explanation:
There are many different rules and interpretations but I will try to explain SOME of them in the hope that this helps you.

Some and any are used with uncountable and plural nouns when referring to an unspecified quantity, ie. when you don’t use other qualifiers before, such as ‘a lot of’, ‘a couple’, ‘three’, etc..
The basic rule is ‘some’ is used with affirmative statements and ‘any’ with negatives and questions but this is a very limited rule.
I read an explanation some time back which helped me. It’s a bit difficult to describe without using a diagram but I’ll try.

Imagine the four sentences:

I like some music
I like any music
I don’t like some music
I don’t like any music

In the two sentences using ‘any’ there is reference to ‘all’ or ‘nothing’ ie I like any music – I like all types of music (a or b or c or x or y or z, etc..) and ‘I don’t like any music’ – there is no type of music I like. However, in the two sentences with some, you are limiting and defining, and there is no ‘all’ or ‘nothing’. There were four boxes – the two boxes with 'some' were half-full with music symbols, the negative ‘any’ box was empty and the affirmative ‘any’ box was full of symbols.

As for the question: Have you got any cheese? Have you got any cheese? The explanation I remember is when you use the ‘some’ in the question you are often expecting a ‘yes’ as an answer, with ‘any’, there is more doubt. Hence the typical question – ‘Have you got any brothers or sisters?’ but in an office you might say to someone ‘Have you got some tippex?’

As for your examples, the following are a bit strange and would need very specific context:

Would you like any cheese?
I put any cheese on a plate.
I don´t want some cheese.
Any cheese is soft.
There is any cheese in the fridge.

Sorry but that’s all that comes to mind for the moment. I’m sure other people will add their bits and pieces.


xxxAnneM
Local time: 13:41
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Maria Knorr
1 hr

agree  athena22
1 hr

agree  xxxivw
2 hrs

agree  John Kinory: But those you listed as 'strange' at the end, seem to be non-idiomatic; or let's face it: not English as she is spoked.
3 hrs
  -> yes, but see Fuad's last point - this is what I was referring to

agree  Margaret Lagoyianni: I agree with John's comment
7 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

36 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
See text


Explanation:
Hi Chris,

native Italian, I have been studying English for the past 16 years therefore... lets see if I am good enough to repeat some of what I've learnt so far: "some" is to be used in positive (i.e. affirmative) sentences ONLY, whereas "any" is to be used in negative and interrogative sentences. Therefore you should say: "Put some cheese on a plate" and "I do not want any cheese". On the other hand, though, there is quite a big exception to this rule: although you might ask your brother: "pal, do u wanna anything to eat", if you offer something to a guest (and you want to sound more polite) you'll better say: "Would you care for SOME cheese?". And this is also applicable to when you ask for something! (have a look at:
http://www.collegeem.qc.ca/cemdept/anglais/sometmts.htm

Check the first url below: it's a questionnaire on SOME/ANY... Follow these above-reported simple rules and you'll score 100%... :-)
And BTW, if you feel you can catch some Italian, look at the second one!


    Reference: http://web.tiscali.it/itisgiorgi/inglese/didattica/2test1.ht...
    Reference: http://web.tiscali.it/itisgiorgi/inglese/grammatica/nuova_pa...
xxxartemisia
Local time: 13:41
Native speaker of: Native in ItalianItalian

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Maria Nicholas: Well done Antonella!
6 days
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
Do you want some cheese? Do you want any cheese?


Explanation:
As an addendum to what has been thoroughly gone over above:

The question with "some" expects a positive response and with "any" expects a negative response.

So you say to a guest "Do you want some cheese?", encouraging him/her to say yes.

When you're about to put the left-over cheese back in the 'fridge, you might say "Do you want any cheese?" meaning "I know you've been wolfing this cheese down all night and if you have any more you'll be sick all over the carpet, but if you want a little more, you pig, I'll give you some."

Just shows how careful you have to be with "some" and "any" in English!

Theodore Fink
Local time: 07:41
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in pair: 6

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Maria Nicholas: Exactly.
6 days
  -> Thanks, Maria. Happy Easter!
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
Most of the examples you provided make some sense in some situations, but not all.


Explanation:
Before laying some rules, it may be helpful to remind ourselves that many uses of "some" and "many" are purely idiomatic, i.e., in many cases, one cannot find a perfectly logical need for one or the other, but “standard” English usage seems to call for one or the other.

Now for some rules: "Some" refers to a subset of a defined set. The reference is formally indefinite, although the speaker may in his mind be referring to a specific subset.

"Any" either refers to an indefinite subset by way of emphasizing the indefiniteness, or provides an absolute denial of every subset.

That is probably a bit too abstruse, so let us use your own examples to illustrate how these abstract notions work:

1. Would you like some cheese?

Here "some" is used as part of an idiom. The sentence can stand perfectly on its own without "some," but in common, polite English usage, when offering someone something, it is almost obligatory to use "some."

2. Would you like any cheese?

This is not wrong. It just puts a slight twist on the tone of the question. The question could either be referring to "any" of a number of different kinds of cheese, or it could be an attempt to make sure that the initial declining of the offer was genuine and absolute. In this case, "Would you like any cheese?" means "Are you absolutely sure you do not want any at all?" The oral intonation may be critical here.

3. I put some cheese on a plate.

This is straightforward enough. Here, "some" refers in a formally indefinite manner to a definite quantity of cheese.

4. I put any cheese on a plate.

It is hard (but not impossible) to imagine a situation when one might say something like that. One may be rehearsing aloud a series of actions involving putting cheese (any cheese) on a plate. Here, "any" simply emphasizes the indefiniteness. Any kind or quantity would do.

5. I don't want some cheese.

The typical absolute refusal usually involves "any," not "some." So the sentence sounds a bit odd, unless the speaker is saying "I don't want just some of this cheese, but rather all of it." The speaker also may be evincing some sarcasm in response to the question, "Do you want some cheese?" Watch the intonation.

6. I don't want any cheese.

This is the standard absolute refusal. Without "any, "the sentence could be taken to mean, "I don't want cheese, but I want something else," assuming the situation warrants that interpretation (again, intonation is critical). The word "any" makes it clear that the speaker is specifically addressing a question about cheese, and that his declining is absolute.

7. Some cheese is soft.

In formal logic, we call this type of statement an "I" statement. It makes a judgment about a subset of the category "cheese" without necessarily making any judgment about the rest. The rest may either be soft or not soft. We cannot infer that without additional, (explicit or implicit) knowledge.

8. Any cheese is soft.

Here "any" is used in the sense of "all" to emphasize the absoluteness of the judgment.

9. There is some cheese in the fridge.

I think we have covered this type of construction already.

10. There is any cheese in the fridge.

Again, it would be difficult to find a situation where this sentence would not sound odd. In this case, I am not even going to try.

As you can see, language is treacherous in that sentences that may seem to violate a rule may actually be acceptable once we have figured out the intended meaning (sometimes from the social context, other times from the tone of delivery).

Fuad

Fuad Yahya
Native speaker of: Native in ArabicArabic, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 893
Grading comment
Thankyou Fuad, and everyone. I still couldn´t answer my French friend´s question, but I certainly got some insights into my mother tongue from the various contributions.

I almost gave this to Mary, on the grounds that she mentioned music, but Fuad´s exposition is masterly. He even manages to make sense of some of the sentences I intended as being wrong/meaningless.

Yes, Berni, wonderful. :-)

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxAnneM
5 hrs

agree  Theodore Fink: Boy! That was a mouthful, Fuad!!! (Do you charge by the hour?)
6 days
  -> With appreciative readers like you, who needs to be paid?

agree  AhmedAMS: Well done.
7 days
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




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