Jan. 10, 2019

Sentence 010 Let the cat out of the bag.

010 I may have any chilli chocolate.

010 I may have some chilli chocolate.

010 May I have any chilli chocolate?

010 May I have some chilli chocolate?

Leslie: Which of these sentences is / are correct?

Peter: Two of the four sentences are correct. ’I may have some chilli chocolate.’ and ’May I have any chilli chocolate?’

L: Why are they correct?

P: Because we use ’some’ in a positive sentence, and ’any’ in a question and a negative sentence.

L: Right. Are you sure that the other two sentences are definitely wrong?

P: Yes, I am. Now that you are asking, I’m not absolutely  sure but I can’t tell you how they would be right.

L: It is very tricky that you are right at beginners and elementary levels. That is what the coursebooks teach, what the grammar books refer to and suggest, and what the testbooks test.

P: Is it not true at higher levels?

L: The picture is not that simple at higher levels; actually all the four sentences may be right and this truth doesn’t depend on the level we teach or learn at. For some reason, coursebooks and reference books simplify at lower levels.

P: Is it good or bad that they simplify?

L: If you ask me, it is mainly bad and I’ll tell you why. Many sentences are grammatically good but situationally bad. This simplification may come from the fact that many books, and behind them a very high number of teachers, teach the grammar rules and support those rules with examples that match to those rules.

P: This is exactly what we learnt: ’some’ in a positive sentence, and ’any’ in a question and a negative sentence. And in a test, you fail if you chose the opposite. Is it possible that I fail because of a correct choice?

L: It is not just possible but highly probable. If we teach and learn the language in situations, it is clear that all four of these sentences can be correct.

P: I’m very interested.

L: I don’t want to explain the two sentences you were right with. Let’s see ’I may have any chilli chocolate.’ The meaning of ’any’ is ’any amount of’; there is no upper limit. It can be kilos, or tons, or shiploads. In another context ’any’ may mean ’any sort of’.

P: I see. And the other sentence?

L: In ’May I have some chilli chocolate?’, ’some’ is even more tricky. In most contexts ’some’ suggests that I would be happy with or satisfied by the smallest amount of that delicacy.