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Hi, guys.

I've come by just for a quick question because as you've surely have noticed I often seem to have a lot more questions to my original, making my threads very long. Also my eyes hurt a lot, so I can't spend much time on my phone. I hope you're doing great. But let's cut to the chase...

Everyone knows that we can't use "some" with singular, countable nouns, e.g., I need to borrow some book.

However, according to my favourite dictionary, it seems that we actually can.

Please have a look at use no 4 in the excerpt below: (they are just some of the uses of the word "some" in the dictionary)

Screenshot_20210303-181601_Samsung Internet

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@taiman posted:

I think your sentence "I need to borrow some book from the library" doesn't fit into the entries 4 to 6, does it? I think what it means is actually "I need to borrow several books from the library." Maybe I'm wrong ...

I think it does fit because each of those entries allows the use of "some" with a thing, i.e., a countable noun - and surely "book" is a thing!

Hi, Lucas—Please study this passage from Michael Swan* (p. 547):

Quote:

"Some . . . can refer to an unknown person or thing (usually with a singular countable noun).

Some idiot has taken the bath plug.
There must be some job I could do.
She's living in some village in Yorkshire.

We can use this structure to suggest that we are not interested in somebody or something, or that we do not think much of him/her/it.

Mary's gone to America to marry some sheep farmer or other.
I don't want to spend my life doing some boring little office job."

*Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.

Hi, David,

I think I understand the latter part of the quote but need further explanation to the former, i.e., the difference between an unknown thing and unspecific thing.

Let's change the "somes" from the quote into indefinite articles, and see what happens:

An idiot has taken the bath plug.
There must be a job I could do.
She's living in a village in Yorkshire.

Do we know now which idiot has taken the plug, which job someone could do, or which village in Yorkshire she's living in?

@Former Member posted:

I think I understand the latter part of the quote but need further explanation to the former, i.e., the difference between an unknown thing and unspecific thing.

Let's change the "somes" from the quote into indefinite articles, and see what happens:

An idiot has taken the bath plug.
There must be a job I could do.
She's living in a village in Yorkshire.

Do we know now which idiot has taken the plug, which job someone could do, or which village in Yorkshire she's living in?

Hi, Lucas—The speaker of your variations on Swan's examples may or may not know "which idiot has taken the plug, which job someone could do, or which village in Yorkshire she's living in." The use of "a(n)" there can go either way. With "some," however, the speaker represents the referent as unknown.

Upon waking tomorrow morning, I could conceivably say, "Lucas asked some question about determiners yesterday. I wish I could remember what it was. Oh, yes, it was a question about the use of 'some' with singular count nouns. He mistakenly assumed that it was wrong and that everyone knew it was."

When "some" is used as a determiner of singular count nouns, it may be described as an emphatic indefinite determiner. Often it conveys that the speaker doesn't care what the specific thing or person is; other times, it conveys simply that the speaker doesn't know or can't remember the specifics.

One amusing example that comes to mind is from the movie The Big Lebowsky. When the big Lebowsky is telling the little Lebowsky how he lost his the use of his legs, he says: "I didn't blame anyone for the loss of my legs. Some Chinaman took them from me in Korea." You can watch it here (2:24).

Last edited by David, Moderator

The Lebowski and his dudeness was quite funny I bet his parents come from my country, judging by his name.

I think I understand more or less what's going on with those determiners.

So to sum up, we can use "some" with any singular count noun if we wish to express this kind of unknowing or not caring. Thus my sentence with a book (I need to borrow some book from the library) is completely fine and correct. The meaning of this sentence is either that, for example, I'm so bored that I dont care what kind of book I get - any will do; or that I have no clue what I'm gonna borrow - I will pick something from the entire offer of the library, regardless of genre.

Right now, the lyrics of A song by the Beatles has come to my mind, "Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody! Help! I need someone..."

They had a specific kind of person in mind, not just anybody. Also I capitalised the indefinite article in "A song by the Beatles" because I meant a very specific song by them: Help! (In this case I couldn't use "some")

Yep, I think I got it now. That's amazing how long I've lived thinking "some" only goes with plural count nouns or mass nouns; but thats also ridiculous and pathetic that I lack such basic knowledge having been learning English for long years.

Anyway, thanks a lot.

Last edited by Former Member
@Former Member posted:

Thus my sentence with a book (I need to borrow some book from the library) is completely fine and correct. The meaning of this sentence is either that, for example, I'm so bored that I dont care what kind of book I get - any will do; or that I have no clue what I'm gonna borrow - I will pick something from the entire offer of the library, regardless of genre.



The sentence "I need to borrow some book from the library" is completely correct in a (somewhat informal) context in which it makes sense to use it. I could imagine that sentence being used by a student whose teacher has required him to check out a particular book, whose title the student does not care to try to recall at the time of speech. He may simply know it's on the syllabus.

Last edited by David, Moderator

So you're suggesting it fits use no 5 from the screenshot I uploaded at the beginning of my query.

But it can also fit use no 4, can't it? Because otherwise, that would explain why I've tought I can't use "some" with singular count nouns: because at school they teach formal, "proper" English.

@Former Member posted:

So you're suggesting it fits use no 5 from the screenshot I uploaded at the beginning of my query.

Yes, my example is an example of that usage.

@Former Member posted:

But it can also fit use no 4, can't it?

If we add a tag question at the end, your sentence will fit that usage:

  • I need to borrow some book from the library, don't I?
@Former Member posted:

Because otherwise, that would explain why I've tought I can't use "some" with singular count nouns: because at school they teach formal, "proper" English.

Just because a construction is informal doesn't mean it's improper or grammatically flawed in some way.

At your school, have they by chance taught you that to write a sentence consisting of a "because"-clause is to write a fragment? That is "improper."

If we add a tag question at the end, your sentence will fit that usage:

  • I need to borrow some book from the library, don't I?

Why do we need to add things to it to fit that usage? It makes me feel like we need to meet very high criteria in order to use "some" with singular count nouns - there's no freedom to use it anytime I want.



At your school, have they by chance taught you that to write a sentence consisting of a "because"-clause is to write a fragment? That is "improper."

I'm not sure i understand, but it wouldn't make sense to say so.

They did teach me, though, that I couldn't start a sentence with a "because"-clause, which I found out later is not really incorrect at all.

@Former Member posted:

Why do we need to add things to it to fit that usage? It makes me feel like we need to meet very high criteria in order to use "some" with singular count nouns - there's no freedom to use it anytime I want.

In discussions of grammar, additions suggestive of context are sometimes made to bring out potentialities of meaning that are unnatural in a contextual vacuum. It is not that the addition must be made for the meaning to be possible.

@Former Member posted:

I'm not sure i understand, but it wouldn't make sense to say so.

They did teach me, though, that I couldn't start a sentence with a "because"-clause, which I found out later is not really incorrect at all.

Sentences can begin with a "because"-clause, but they cannot consist of a "because"-clause in proper English, any more than a sentence can consist of an "after"-clause, a "before"-clause, a "when"-clause, an "although"-clause, etc. In short, a subordinate clause is not a sentence, so if you punctuate one as if it were a sentence, you have written a sentence fragment. These constructions of yours are sentence fragments and, as such, are sloppy and improper:

@Former Member posted:

Because otherwise, that would explain why I've tought I can't use "some" with singular count nouns: because at school they teach formal, "proper" English.

Sentences can begin with a "because"-clause, but they cannot consist of a "because"-clause in proper English, any more than a sentence can consist of an "after"-clause, a "before"-clause, a "when"-clause, an "although"-clause, etc. In short, a subordinate clause is not a sentence, so if you punctuate one as if it were a sentence, you have written a sentence fragment. These constructions of yours are sentence fragments and, as such, are sloppy and improper:

Oh yeah, I didnt notice the sentence consisted just of a subordinate clause.



@Former Member posted:

But it can also fit use no 4, can't it? Because otherwise, that would explain why I've tought I can't use "some" with singular count nouns: because at school they teach formal, "proper" English.

I used "otherwise" here as a substitute of "if it can't," and that's why I didn't spot this error. Lol

Btw, I've remembered something about subordinate clauses but will create another thread for it.

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