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I know it sounds more natural to say "have we got any paper for the printer?", but is it incorrect to use "some" here?

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    You can say either. Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 10:52
  • or even neither.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 12:52
  • 1
    I would ask if we have paper for the printer when I can’t find any. I would ask if we have some paper for the printer when I’m wondering whether any or the paper we have has been designated for the printer: “So we have paper for the copier and the fax machine, have we got some for the printer?”
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 16:48
  • Would it be unusual to use "some" if it's the first scenario?
    – Ana
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 5:53
  • The reason why I'm asking this is that it comes from a grammar exercise and the answer key offers "any" as the only answer.
    – Ana
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 7:00

2 Answers 2

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A question with "some" implies the belief that the answer is "yes". A question with "any" doesn't imply anything.

An example: when first sitting down in a restaurant, the server commonly asks, "Would you like something to drink?" The server here expects nearly everyone will order a drink. However, at the end of the meal, the server more commonly asks, "Would anyone like anything for dessert?" People don't always have dessert, so the server does not suggest they expect it.

Another example: if you go into a store and there's nobody there to serve you, you might call out, "Is anybody here?" because it appears there's nobody. But if you enter your hotel room and see strange clothes on the floor, you might call out, "Is somebody here?" because it looks like someone else is still using the room.

So to your example, "Have we got any paper for the printer?" is just a question, but "Have we got some paper for the printer?" suggests you think or even know there is some paper, and what you're really asking is where it is or for someone to give it to you.

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Have we got any or some paper for the printer? [After a prior discussion]

They are basically the same in this case. Though one can be picky about it.

  • Have you got any friends? [the person thinks you might not have any friends]
  • Have you got some friends? [the person does not think you don't]

However, you can also ask and people often do say:

Have we got printer paper?

There is no intrinsic need for "any" or "some".

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  • If there's no prior discussion, can I use "some"?
    – Ana
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 5:44

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