A student wrote the following :

Would you have any apple or cake?

A teacher from the UK recommends :

Would you like to have an apple or a piece of cake?

I wish to check if the original question "Would you have any apple or cake?" can be accepted as grammatically correct in the US.

  • 1
    It is grammatically well-formed and meaningful (mostly--apple isn't ordinarily used as a mass noun), but it doesn't mean what you seem to intend: it's a polite way of asking whether your hearer actually has apple or cake (typically whether a shop or restaurant offers these goods), not whether they would like to have apple or cake to consume. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 19 '17 at 22:07
  • @StoneyB thanks for the detailed and very interesting analysis. Didn't expect the question can be used to query a shop or a restaurant. – Stanley Aug 19 '17 at 22:22
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    ImagIne you’re at an icecream shop with many exotic flavors. “I’ll have pistachio please. “ “Sorry we’re out of pistachio” “Would you have any apple or cake?” “We’re out of apple, but we do have cake.” “Ok, I’ll have a double in a sugar cone.” – Jim Aug 19 '17 at 23:53
  • @Jim in the case of an ice-cream shop, how do you compare it with : "Do you have any apple or cake (favor)?" My guess is using "would" is more polite ... – Stanley Aug 22 '17 at 12:26

They don't mean the same thing. Each is meaningful.

  1. The first asks whether you would like some apple (e.g., some pieces of apple, not "an apple") or some cake. A more usual way to ask this would use some, not any, but any here suggests that you might already have replied negatively to some previous offer of food.

    Using any here is like asking, "You say you're not hungry, but are you sure you would not care for some apple or some cake?" IOW, any is typically used in a negative sentence: "Don't you want any cake?" Using it in the way you did is a way of hinting at this negativeness without being explicitly negative.

    Note that this use of any is not common. If coming from a non-native speaker it is likely to be understood as a mistaken attempt to say some apple or some cake.

  2. The second asks whether you would like to have a (whole) apple or a piece of cake. Having a piece of cake is equivalent to having some cake, but having an apple is not equivalent to having some apple.

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