When do you use some and when do you use any? Is it much or many? And what’s the difference between few and little?

Some, any, much, many, few and little are all words that come before nouns to help explain them. Some and any are both “determiners” – they tell us whether the noun phrase is general or specific. Some and any are both “general determiners”, which means they refer to an indefinite or unknown quantity of something.

Much, many, few and little are all “quantifiers”. Quantifiers are used to give information about quantity (the number of something). Both much and many suggest a large quantity of something, whilst little and few mean: not as much, or not as many. However, if you use a little or a few this means: a small amount!

Some vs. any

The words some and any are used when the exact number or amount of something is not known, or when it’s not important. Some and any are both used to refer to an indefinite quantity or number.

Some and any are known as “general determiners”. They are used to modify nouns, specifically to tell us that the noun phrase is general (rather than specific).  They can be used with:

  1. Countable or uncountable nouns:
    We don’t have any time to get popcorn before the film starts.(Time is uncountable)
    We still have some apples on the tree. (Apples are countable)
  2. Singular or plural nouns:
    We don’t have any chicken left for dinner. (Chicken is singular)
    It’s such nice weather! Let’s invite some friends round for a BBQ. (Friends is plural)

When do I use someand when do I use any?

Although some and any are both used to describe an indefinite number, they are used in different ways. So how do we use them correctly?

In general, some is used in positive sentences (that don’t contain the word ‘not’):

I would love to try some of that food! It looks delicious!
I have bought some strawberries and cream to have for dessert.
Let’s invite some friends round and have a party tonight!
Some people think it’s better to eat healthily than to exercise a lot.

Any is used in negative sentences (that contain the word ‘not’):

We don’t have any space left in the car so we won’t be able to give you a lift.
I don’t need any help with my homework because I can do it on my own.
There isn’t any milk in the fridge so we’ll have to have black coffee.
I’m not hungry at the moment so I don’t want anything to eat.

And in questions:

Have you got any idea how long the film lasts?
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
It would be great to season these potatoes. Is there any salt and pepper?
Do you have any plans for the summer?

1. When do we use much and when many?

  • much: uncountable nouns (milk, marmalade, money, time etc.)
  • many: countable nouns (bottles of milk, jars of marmalade, dollars, minutes etc.)

Examples:

  • How much money have you got?
  • How many dollars have you got?

In informal English these questions are often answered with a lot of, lots of. There is no much difference between the two phrases.

2. When do we use a little/little and when a few/few?

  • a little: non countable nouns (milk, marmalade, money, time etc.)
  • a few: countable nouns (bottles of milk, jars of marmalade, dollars, minutes etc.)

Examples:

  • He has a little money left.
  • He has a few dollars left.

We use few and little without the article a to point out a more negative meaning.

Examples:

  • A few students of our school know this. (There are some student who know it.)
  • Few students know this. (It is almost unkonown.)

When do we use some and when any?

We use some and any for an amount which is not known e.g. Have you got any crisps?

Use of some and any

  • some: affirmative statements, offers, requests and in questions when you expect the answer ›yes‹
  • any: negative statements, questions

Have you got any bananas? No, we haven’t got any. But we’ve got some oranges.

Exceptions:

I would like to buy fruit at a market. I see the man has wonderful apples so I can ask him:

  • Can I have some of these apples?

If I do not see apples or if I am not sure whether there are apples at all I use any in this question.

  • Have you got any apples?
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