The words some and any are used when the speaker cannot specify or does not need/want to specify a number or an exact amount. Compare the following sentences:
- I saw seven deer when riding my bike in the forest yesterday. (It is important that you know how many deer I saw.)
- I saw some deer when riding my bike in the forest yesterday. (I don't know exactly how many deer I saw. Or: It is not important that you know exactly how many deer I saw.)
The "rules" that follow apply also to words containing some and any: somebody/anybody, something/anything, somewhere/anywhere etc.
In general, some is used in positive sentences:
- I got some nice presents for Christmas this year.
- This job is going to take some time.
- Look! There are some large black birds on the roof of the church.
- You have some butter on your chin.
- If you are hungry, there are some biscuits in the cupboard.
- I'm sure I'll return to Japan some day.
- There is somebody on the phone for you.
- I'd like to go somewhere hot this summer.
- Buy me something nice for my birthday this year.
In general, any is used in negative sentences and questions:
- I didn't get any nice presents for Christmas this year.
- I looked in the cupboard but I couldn't find any biscuits.
- I don't need any help.
- She's so rude. No wonder she doesn't have any friends.
- I don't have anything to wear to the dance.
- I'm not hungry. I don't want anything to eat.
I forgot to buy any milk. [ Explanation There are many contexts where the basic 'rules' for using some/any are not followed. This is one of them.
Grammar aficionados may wish to know that any is a negative polarity determiner and hence it works well with forget that can be regarded as negative polarity verb,
There are more exceptions to the basic rule below. ]
- Do you have any brothers or sisters?
- Did you catch any fish?
- Have you seen any good films recently?
- Does anyone know the answer?
- Are you going anywhere this Christmas?
In fact, the use of some/any is a little more complicated. Following are two common occasions when the above "rules" are "broken":
1. We can use some in questions when offering/requesting:
- Would you like some more tea?
- Could I have some milk, please?
- Do you want something to eat?
2. We use any in positive sentences when we mean it doesn't matter which ..:
- You can come and ask for my help any time.
- Which book shall I read? - Any one. It's up to you.
- You can sit anywhere but here. This is my seat!
There are several interactive quizzes on this topic in the Other Grammar drop-down menu on the Grammar index.