“Some” vs. “Any”

Summary

Some and any both refer to an unspecified quantity. In affirmative questions, some indicates that a positive answer is expected. Any is more neutral.

Examples
  • Would you like some tea?
    Expecting a positive response.
  • Do you have any information for me?
    More open-ended.

In negative questions, some is used to confirm and clarify, while any is used to confirm a negative expectation.

Examples
  • Isn’t there some kind of app for this?
    Seeking confirmation and clarification.
  • Don’t you have any money?
    Confirming negative expectation.

Some is generally used instead of any in affirmative statements.

Example
  • I found some/any old books in the attic.

But any may be used in affirmatives for emphasis.

Example
  • Some/Any teacher would confirm that it’s hard to teach afternoon classes.

In negative statements, any is generally used instead of some.

Example
  • They don’t have some/any seats left.

Any is used more often than some in conditionals.

Example
  • Let me know if you have any questions.

Some and any

Some and any are both used to refer to an unspecified amount or number in questions, statements, and conditionals.

Examples
  • Do you have some time for me this week?
  • Do you have any money I could borrow?
  • Isn’t there some new kind of mug that reheats your coffee?
  • Don’t you ever have any fun?
  • There’s some orange juice for you in the fridge.
  • Any fruit can be freeze-dried.
  • If you have any thoughts on the matter, let me know.

Since some and any are determiners that indicate quantity, they are called quantifiers. (Determiners are words that appear before a noun and clarify its reference.)

Examples
  • I have some marbles.
    reference to quantity
  • I don’t have any marbles.
    reference to quantity again

Some and any have similar meanings but convey different points of view, assumptions, and expectations. In this article, we discuss when to use which: some or any.

Stressed and unstressed: Strong and weak forms

Both some and any have strong and weak forms, depending on whether the word is stressed or unstressed in a sentence. Here are some examples of weak-form some and any.

Examples
  • There’s some coffee in the pot.
  • There isn’t any coffee, I’m afraid.
  • Is there any coffee left?
  • Is there some coffee left?

And here are some sentences with strong-form some and any.

Examples
  • Well, some people think she’s funny.
  • That was some speech!
  • Any cat can climb a tree.
  • If you face any problems at all, just give me a call.
Tip

When stressed, or in the strong form, some is pronounced /sʌm/; in its unstressed or weak form, some is pronounced /s(ə)m/.

In questions

Both some and any are used to ask questions. In questions, some implies that the speaker expects agreement; any is open-ended and does not convey expectation of either agreement or disagreement.

Examples
  • Would you like some coffee?
    Said to a guest, with the expectation that the offer will be accepted.
  • Would you like any more coffee or tea?
    The guest may or may not want another beverage.

Here are some more examples of some used in affirmative questions when a positive answer is expected.

Examples
  • Can you take on some more work?
    Positive response expected: “Yes, I can.”
  • I made too many sandwiches. Would you like some?
  • Can some of these dishes be made vegan?
  • Is there some way to cancel these tickets?

And here are more examples of any used to ask open-ended questions.

Examples
  • Is there any work assigned to you today?
    Open-ended question: the reply could be “Yes, I do,” or “No, but I still have yesterday’s reports to finish.”
  • I made too many cookies. Would you like any of these to take home?
  • Are any of the dishes on your menu vegan?
  • Is there any way to cancel these tickets?
  • Are there any rules I should know about?
Tip

Since some is used when agreement is expected and any is more neutral, some is used more often to politely offer something to someone (even if their response is then negative).

Example
  • Do you need some help, Farley?
    The response may be negative: “Ah, no. I’m good, thanks.” But by using some, you’ve made your offer more genuine.

Some is also used in imperatives to make offers.

Examples
  • Try some/any of this new sauce.
  • Here, have some/any more cake.

In negative questions, any, rather than being open-ended, suggests a negative expectation. Some is used in negative questions to seek confirmation and clarification.

Examples
  • Isn’t there some way to book these tickets in advance?
    The speaker believes there is a way but wants to confirm this, and is also seeking clarification on how to book the tickets.
  • Isn’t there any dessert?
    The speaker doesn’t think there is dessert but wants to confirm this.
  • Don’t you have some work to finish?
    Confirming that the person does have work.
  • Don’t you have any work to do?
    The speaker thinks the person has no work and is confirming this.

In affirmative and negative statements

Any does not usually occur in affirmative sentences. Some is used instead.

Examples
  • There’s some/any money in the purse.
  • There are some/any muffins on the table.
  • I have some/any questions for you.
  • Some/any books lay strewn about the study.
  • There’s some/any milk in the fridge.
  • There’s some/any coffee in the pot.

But note that any does occur in affirmatives to mean “all of a group.” In this sense, any emphasizes the meaning of “all.”

Examples
  • Any child would love this game.
  • You can call me at any time, night or day.
  • Nature has given us any number of warnings.
  • You may use any sequential numbering system in a multilevel list.
  • Any information can be stored in binary format.

Any may also be used for emphasis to refer to “an example of a type, it does not matter which one.”

Examples
  • “What kind of book are you looking for?”
    “Oh, some/any book will do; I just need something to read on the flight.”
  • What I need is a job. Some/Any job will do.

Similarly, the strong form of some is used for emphasis in affirmative statements.

Examples
  • Wow, that was some/any show!
    expressing admiration
  • I’ve known her for some/any time now.
    a considerable amount or number
  • To some/any people at least, it meant the end of the world as they knew it.
    a small amount or number

In negative statements, the unstressed or weak form of any instead of some is used to refer to a quantity or number. The weak form of some is not used in negatives.

Examples
  • There isn’t some/any money in the purse.
  • There aren’t some/any muffins on the table.
  • I don’t have some/any more questions.
  • There isn’t some/any milk in the fridge.
  • There isn’t some/any coffee in the pot.

Any is not generally used with singular countable nouns in negative statements. The indefinite article a/an is used instead.

Examples
  • This park used to be a birdwatcher’s paradise, and now there isn’t a/any bird in sight.
  • I don’t own a/any car.

In place of not any, the more forceful no may also be used with singular countable nouns.

Example
  • I have not any / no idea what you’re talking about.

However, the strong form of any may be used with singular countable nouns in negative statements for emphasis.

Examples
  • Well, she’s not just any writer: she won the Nobel Prize!
  • This isn’t any old typewriter: it’s the Clickety-Clack 9.1!
  • Although she urgently needs representation, she’s not likely to hire just any agent.

Less often, the stressed or strong form of some may be used in negatives to say whom or what you’re referring to is not an unknown or unspecified entity.

Examples
  • He’s not just some guy I met on the street: he’s the love of my life.
  • This isn’t just some old house: it’s our heritage.

In conditionals

Although any does not usually occur in affirmative statements, it does occur in conditionals. Some can also be used in conditionals, but any is more common.

Examples
  • Feel free to contact us if you have any queries.
  • Shout if you see any ghosts.
  • Unless you have any questions, let’s move on to the next topic.
  • If you have any information about this person, please send us a message.

Less often, some is used in conditionals. Using any is more neutral; some suggests greater certainty.

Examples
  • If you have some information you think may be useful, you should share it with the police.
    The speaker believes that the person does have information.
  • If you have any information you think may be useful, you should share it with us.
    More neutral: the person may or may not have information; our speaker does not know.
  • Let’s watch a movie if we have some free time this weekend.
    Expectation that there will be free time.
  • If we have any free time this weekend, we should clear out the garage.
    The speaker has no expectation about whether or not there will be time.

Any can also occur in conditionals disguised as affirmative statements, where the condition is implied without the use of subordinating conjunctions like if and unless. In such statements, any means “all.”

Examples
  • Please feel free to send us any questions you may have.
    Feel free to send us all your questions.
  • Any ghosts you encounter will flee at the sound of your scream.
  • Any information you have would be useful.
  • You can choose any seat you like.
  • Add an apostrophe as you would with any other possessive.

Any is not generally used with singular countable nouns in conditionals. The indefinite article a/an is used instead.

Examples
Note

It is not grammatically wrong to use a singular countable noun after any. Countable nouns that follow any in conditionals are usually plural, but a singular noun may be used for emphasis.

Examples
  • If you have any idea at all about what happened, I need to know.
  • If you still have any query left unanswered, I’ll be happy to assist you.

Zero determiner

To make a general reference or to refer to large, unlimited quantities, use the zero determiner (which means using no determiner at all). Some and any are both determiners that refer to quantity. This quantity is unspecified but not unlimited. Use the zero determiner with uncountable or plural countable nouns to indicate a category as a whole.

Examples
  • This species needs air, food, and water to live.
    Not “some air, some food, and some water,” but air, food, and water in general.
  • Earning money isn’t easy.
    Not “some money” or “any money,” but money in general.
  • Maya loves cats.
  • Cats are carnivores.

The zero determiner helps make a general reference. Compare this with using some or any.

Examples
  • Could I have some water, please?
  • If there is any money in that purse, it’s mine.
  • Some cats can digest milk, but many cannot.
  • Any cat would love this toy.
Caution

Don’t use the zero determiner with singular countable nouns; they require a determiner.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Maya loves cat.
    Correct: Maya loves her cat.
  • Incorrect: Cat loves toy.
    Correct: My cat loves this toy.

Someone, somebody, something vs. anyone, anybody, anything

Indefinite pronouns starting with some- and any- are used similarly to some and any as determiners. For example, someone/somebody is used in questions expecting a positive response; using anyone/anybody is more open-ended.

Examples
  • Is there someone new in your life?
    Expecting a positive response.
  • Is it anybody I know?
    It may or may not be; the speaker does not know.
  • Did you say something?
    The speaker thinks something was said.
  • Do you hear anything?
    More neutral.
Tip

Somebody and anybody mean the same as someone and anyone but sound more informal.

And just as it is with some and any, the pronouns anyone/anybody and anything are not used in affirmatives; someone/somebody and something are.

Examples
  • There’s somebody/anybody at the door.
  • I met someone/anyone interesting today.
  • There’s something/anything I have to tell you.

Someone/somebody and something can’t be used in negative statements, but anyone/anybody and anything can.

Examples
  • There’s nothing someone/anyone can do to help me.
  • There isn’t something/anything good to say about this vacation.

In conditionals, either someone/somebody and something or anyone/anybody and anything may be used. As with some and any, using some- can convey certainty.

Examples
  • If there’s something I can do to help you, let me know.
    Belief that help can be given.
  • If there’s anything you need, let me know.
    More open-ended.

But note that stressing the words anyone/anybody or anything can convey emphasis.

Example
  • If there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know.
    If the word anything is stressed in the sentence, this conditional conveys a stronger meaning than “if there’s something I can do.”

Examples from literature

Here are some examples of some and any from published works. Examine these sentences to review how some and any are used in questions, statements, and conditionals.

Examples
  • Some in question expecting positive response: Alice suddenly said, ‘Would you like some wine?’
    E. Nesbit, The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899)
  • Any in open-ended question: What is any of this to us?
    Tanith Lee, Delirium’s Mistress (1985)
  • Some in negative question expecting confirmation: And then shall I run down the cellar and get some russets, Matthew? Wouldn’t you like some russets?
    L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  • Any in negative question to confirm negative expectation: Don’t you have any principles, Tristan?
    John Boyne, The Absolutist (2011)
  • Some in imperative that is an offer: ‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
    Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  • Some instead of any in affirmative statement: They have some of the finest woods in the country.
    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Any instead of some in negative statement: No, they didn’t have any money, the sea was dangerous and men were lost, but it was a satisfying life in a way people today do not understand.
    Annie Proulx, The Shipping News (1993)
  • Stressed any for emphasis in affirmative statement: Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those that live on it.
    Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky (1950)
  • Stressed some for emphasis in negative statement: What keeps you going isn’t just some fine destination but the road you’re on and the fact you know how to drive.
    Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams (1990)
  • Any in conditional: What does it help to be in the right if you don’t have any power?
    Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People (1882)

Quick Quiz

Which of these implies that the speaker expects the offer to be accepted?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which would you use to confirm a negative expectation?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which is correct?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which of these refers to all of a group?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which suggests greater certainty that the condition will be fulfilled?
Choose from these answers
All done!

Did You Know?

An ellipsis can show faltering speech in dialogue.
Know more:How to Use an Ellipsis (...)