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Some or Any?

Ask a Teacher
Ask a Teacher
Some or Any?
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This week, we answer a question from Eri. Eri writes:


“Hi, VOA Learning English. I want to know how to use ‘any’ & ‘some.’” – Eri


Dear Eri,

It often seems like English speakers use the words ‘any’ and ‘some’ in exactly the same way. People use both words to describe an amount of something, but usually not an exact amount. Also, ‘any’ and ‘some’ often appear in similar sentences or questions.

For example, let us say you are at school and your teacher tells the class to start working on a writing project. Your friend turns to you and asks a question in one of two ways:

“Do you have any paper?” or “Do you have some paper?”

In both cases, your friend does not have the paper needed to do the work and is asking if you have extra paper they can use. But they are not asking for an exact amount of paper, like one or two or even three pieces.

The biggest difference between ‘any’ and ‘some’ is that the word you use in your answer depends on the kind of answer you will give.

Let us say you bought a lot of paper at the start of the school year, so you do have extra that you can share with your friend. In this case, you will make a positive statement.

You say: “Yes, I have some. Here you go!”

However, let us say you already gave the extra paper you once had to other classmates and you have no more to share. In this case, you will make a negative statement.

You say: “No, I do not have any. Sorry!”

But there is one kind of positive statement you can make using the word ‘any.’ That is when someone asks you a question and it is not important or easy for you to give an exact answer.

For example, let us say your teacher wants you to write about your interests. So he or she asks you: “What is your favorite movie?”

You think and think, but cannot think of one you like more than others. So you answer with: “Any movie that has action in it!”

And that’s Ask A Teacher!

I’m Pete Musto.

Pete Musto wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

positiveadj. good or useful

negativeadj. not wanted