This page has information about when to use some and when to use any.

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.