It’s a warm summer day. You and your friends are on the beach, when someone suggests ice cream. You think that’s a great idea, until you look in your wallet.
“I would love some ice cream,” you say, sadly. “But I have no money. I guess I can’t get any ice cream.”
Fortunately, you have some great friends, who buy you some ice cream anyway, and you continue to enjoy the nice summer day.
Some, any and no are words in English that determine amounts. These determiners come before a noun. As a reminder, a noun is a person (Santa Claus), place (North Pole), thing (chimney), or idea (peace).
Any, no and some can be used in positive and negative sentences. What’s the difference? A positive sentence is when an author writes something that the reader already knows. A negative sentence rejects the statement. Look at the examples below:
Michelle likes to use ArgoPrep’s textbooks so she can be as smart as she can be!
Certain states have a lot of snow in the winter.
Kevin did not wear the green hat.
The red marker does not go next to the yellow marker.
The first two sentences are positive sentences — they both say something that, if someone were to ask, we could say “yes” and we would be telling the truth. The second two sentences, however, are negative sentences. If someone were to ask those as a question, we would say “no.” For example — “Did Kevin wear the green hat?” “No.”
Now that we know the differences between positive and negative sentences, let’s go into more detail about the differences among some, any, and no.
Some Any No Indefinite Pronouns
Some, any, and no are examples of indefinite pronouns. A pronoun replaces a noun in a sentence — for example, by replacing “Pranav” with “he,” or “my family” with “we.” An indefinite pronoun is a specific type of pronoun that refers to an unknown noun.
When someone uses the word some, the quantity of the thing is unknown. It could be 1 or 10 or 100 — the person doesn’t know, so they have to use some. Usually, it is a medium amount.
For example, if you ask your dad for some money, and he gives you a dollar, then he is doing exactly what you ask. If you want a specific amount, then make sure you are clear — twenty dollars and fifty dollars and two dollars are all technically some amount of money.
Also use the word some when discussing uncountable nouns. An example of an uncountable noun used in a sentence would be Please go eat some chicken. You are telling the person that you are talking to that they are entitled to your food — but, the amount is up to them.
Some can also be used for plural countable nouns. To remind you, a plural noun means more than one of something. Take the sentence Most birds can fly, but there are some that can’t fly. The plural noun in this sentence is the word “birds,” as it refers to more than one bird.
Some followed by a noun can also reference something vague. When I tell you that “Some guy driving a blue car asked if he knew me,” I don’t actually know the person driving the car. The word some also occasionally marks that a person is great at what they do — “He is some soccer player” tells me that the person plays soccer amazingly.
Similar to the word some, any refers to an unspecified amount of something. Whereas some is usually a medium amount, any can be 1, 100, 1000, 1,000,000 or an even larger number!
For instance, when your teacher asks if the class has any questions, she doesn’t know how many questions that her students will have. The class may have one, two, ten, or more questions! Remember — when a person uses any, they don’t know how many.
Similar to the word some, any can be used when discussing uncountable nouns. An example of an uncountable noun used in a sentence would be when your parents ask you, “Do you have any homework?” You may have no homework, you may have a lot of homework — your parents don’t know the exact amount.
Any can also be used for plural countable nouns. Look at the sentence Are there any chocolate chip cookies left? The plural noun in that sentence is “chocolate chip cookies.” Hopefully, there are some cookies left, and you have a nice dessert!
The word any is also used when we are saying a positive sentence, but we really mean a negative sentence. We could say “I refused to give her information,” or we could say “I did not give her any information.” Either way, the meaning is negative.
Any can also be used as a generalization. “Any student can use ArgoPrep” means just that. As long as you are a student, you will be able to find many useful things on ArgoPrep.
When a person uses the word no as a quantifier, it means there are 0 things. As opposed to some or any, we know the amount — 0.
No is always used in a positive sentence. Look at the examples below to see why!
I have no extra pencils.
I don’t have no extra pencils.
If you were to use a double negative, such as the second example given, your sentence would not make sense. It would get confusing — do you have extra pencils, or not? By simply using one negative (in this case, the word no), you are saving yourself, as well as the people you are talking to, a lot of confusion.
Any No Some in questions
When asking a question and we expect the answer to be positive, English speakers use some, as well. For instance, if I ask a friend “Could I have some milk?” then I expect the answer to that question to be “Yes, you can have some milk.”
English speakers use any when we ask a question and expect the answer to be negative. For example, if I ask a friend of mine at the flower shop if they see any pink roses, they may respond with “No, I don’t see any pink roses, but I see some white roses over here!”
You can use the word “no” in a question, though this is much rarer than the other two words. Usually, this is used in anger. For example, if you are looking to sign up for an appointment, you may ask in frustration, “Are there no slots left?” Generally, however, any is recommended over no (even if you are angry or frustrated).
Something, Anything, Nothing
The same rules discussed before apply to the following sets of words, depending on what you are trying to say:
If you are describing an item, then use the first set of words. If you are describing a person, use either the second or third set of words. If you are describing a location, then use the fourth set of words.(By the way — there is not a huge difference between the “someone” set of words and the “somebody” set. Either set works!)
- A positive sentence is when we expect that we know the answer. A negative sentence is when we do not expect to know the answer.
- Some, any, and no can be used as indefinite pronouns.
- Some is used for unknown quantities, uncountable nouns, plural countable nouns, among other things.
- Any is used for unknown quantities, uncountable nouns, plural countable nouns, among other things/
- No is used for the quantity of 0.
- Some, any, and no can be used in questions.