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1) I haven't some spare pen.

a) some
b) haven’t
c) I
d) spare

The answer to this is given "some", i.e. "some" is considered to be wrong here. I think the use of "haven't" and "some" together is what makes this sentence awry. Therefore, both a) and b) should be the answer. "Haven't" should be followed by a verb, therefore the use of "some" is wrong and "some" should be preceded by a "verb", therefore the use of "haven't" is wrong?

Am I right?

2)There is a little milk in the jug.

a) milk
b) a
c) there
d) in

After reading the question, I figured out that both "a" and "little" are a misfit in the sentence. The answer given is "a". It would mean that the sentence -"There is little milk in the jug" is grammatically incorrect? Is it so? Is the use of "little" in this sentence correct?

  • The second sentence is correct as is. The first should be I haven't a spare pen. – SovereignSun Apr 21 '17 at 17:53
  • I agree – it should be a spare pen, not some spare pen. Although the best way to say it would probably be: I don’t have a spare pen. – J.R. Apr 21 '17 at 18:53
  • You can have some spare fuel, or some spare pens (in the plural). – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 21 '17 at 19:42
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I am very curious what your teacher thinks is wrong with the second sentence.

The word "milk" is uncountable. You can't have one milk or two three milks; liquids are measured, not counted. Therefore, it should not take an indefinite article. No native English speaker would drink a milk.

But the phrase "a little" is idiomatic. It means some small quantity.

So the sentence

There is a little milk in the jug.

is perfectly idiomatic English and means "There is a small quantity of milk in the jug." It would be a response to a question like "Is the jug empty?"

If you wrote

There is little milk in the jug.

that is formally more defensible, but it very strongly connotes the idea of "not enough milk" or "we are almost out of milk". It would be a suitable response to the question, "May I have a tall glass of milk?"

I think the exercise is about countability. The word some functions in some ways like an article, but it can be used only with uncountable nouns and plural countable nouns. You can "boil some water" or you can "pet some cats", but "pet some cat" and "boil some waters" are both wrongs.

(Incidentally, in English, uncountable words can sometimes be pluralized to denote different kinds. So cow milk and goat milk are two different milks.)

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  • Well then there is nothing wrong with the second statement? – Arishta Apr 21 '17 at 17:08
  • I agree with Malvolio, the second sentence is correct as is. – SovereignSun Apr 21 '17 at 17:54
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Re your first sentence: some goes with positive statements; any with negative ones. So,

  • I haven't (got) any spare pens or I don't have any spare pens.

Re your second sentence:

  • There is a little milk in the jug is a perfectly grammatical sentence. It suggests that though there may not be very much, there is probably enough for the needs of the particular situation.

  • There is little milk in the jug is also a good sentence, but the meaning is very different. It means that there probably isn't enough to meet the needs of the situation.

Few works in a similar way. Compare I have a few friends (not lots, but enough to make me happy), with I have few friends (I'm lonely and wish I had more friends).

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