Again, thank you for helpful support.

Now, I became a "patron" of a singer, and I asked a question before about her song.

She says,

Welcome to my new Patrons, and to the old ones, thanks for sticking around. :) We're hovering right around $400 a month, so I figure it's time for me to invest in some percussion instruments! I want to build a little "kit" and I'm asking around for advice on what to include. Shaker, tambourine, cabasa, cajón... if you have any input or expertise, I'd appreciate it! I don't have any real percussion training, so I'm looking for things that will be easy for me to use. Certain months I would also like to put the $400 toward hiring a real drummer, depending on what songs we want to do and what they call for! This can be complicated because I have to hire a drummer, find a place to record drums (it takes a lot of mics), and maybe have someone mix drums for me as well (I don't have much experience in making them sound good). That's why I've set the goal so high on this one. Interested to hear what you all think

I input the whole sentence. (which I don't like somehow).

What does certain months mean here? Also, I don't understand who they are when she says "what they call for!"

  • 1
    "They" refers to the songs - she's saying that if a song calls for having a real drummer, she'll be able to hire one. – Canadian Yankee May 28 '18 at 14:02
  • I don't know if she is a "true" native speaker or not. – Kentaro Tomono Jun 2 '18 at 12:08

The cited use of certain is syntactically valid, but it's not really idiomatically acceptable. The well-established "standard" usage fore the context is Some weeks I'd like to do X.

But there's also a semantic issue involved. In contexts such as...

The review board recommended parole for some prisoners
The review board recommended parole for certain prisoners

...it's tempting to say the highlighted terms are interchangeable, but actually they're not exactly equivalent. When certain is used in this way, it doesn't just mean some - it always carries the implication some specific [weeks, prisoners, etc.], where (in principle, at least) there is some reasonably clear-cut way of identifying which particular weeks / prisoners fall into the relevant category (weeks when a drummer will be hired, prisoners who will be granted parole).

TL;DR: When certain replaces some, it always implies certain specific / particular. Which doesn't make much sense in OP's context, making the cited usage non-idiomatic to most native speakers.

The general principle (for many/most people, but clearly not all native speakers - as shown by certain/some1 answers and votes on this page) is that some is often used to refer to a "random" subset, whereas certain normally implies reference to a "pre-determined" subset (or one for which the relevant inclusion criteria are available, at least in principle).

1 Using certain in this exact context would strongly imply I know exactly which posts I'm referring to (and you could probably figure it out easily if you took the trouble). Any such implication is weaker or non-existent with some.


In phrases that follow the pattern {preposition} certain {plural noun} or certain {plural noun}

(on) certain days

certain times

under certain conditions

in certain places

the word certain is a way of saying "some in particular, but not all".

When the reference is to times, it is common to drop the preposition from the phrase especially in casual conversation:

Some days you just don't feel like going to work.

Certain days you just don't feel like going to work.

Some months it's best not to eat oysters.

P.S. Here's an attestation with a minor (irrelevant) change (in case the author didn't want to have their reddit post cited outside of reddit, it will make it a littler harder to find):

All we have are beetles and crickets and certain months we can't seem to keep them out of the house.

  • Hmmmm...interesting. Even the interpretation by native speakers vary.. ( from Astralbee ) – Kentaro Tomono May 28 '18 at 11:47
  • 1
    I don't think it's a matter of difference of "interpretation". We understand the phrase to mean the same thing. The difference is whether such casual phrases qualify as "good grammar". I consider them conversational/colloquial/casual. In formal contexts, you would normally not find the preposition being dropped. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 28 '18 at 11:49
  • 2
    @KentaroTomono Some people tend to use the term grammar loosely, and confuse ungrammatical / bad grammar with informal style. – userr2684291 May 28 '18 at 11:59
  • I understand "Some days" without a preposition, but "Certain months"???? – Kentaro Tomono May 28 '18 at 12:19
  • 1
    @KentaroTomono It's the same construction. Certain means "some that I'm thinking of". – userr2684291 May 28 '18 at 12:26

It is not good grammar. This is not even good colloquial speech, but it is not surprising! Some native English speakers do not use good grammar.

By "certain months" she seems to be suggesting "some" months, but not all. Without the context I am guessing, but it sounds like she has $400 set aside each month and she is saying that some months that $400 will be spent on hiring a drummer, but not every month.

In formal use, "certain" used this way should denote specific things. However as the singer goes on to say that the determining factor in this is "depending on what songs we want to do" it is clear her meaning is looser and she intends to decide on a whim.

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