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In the book that I'm now reading, it says that the sentence

(1) "Only two of us had some experience in sailing"

is ungrammatical, because 'only' has negative meaning, so the positive polarity item 'some' cannot be positioned in this sentence.

Therefore,

(2) "Only two of us had any experience in sailing"

is the correct sentence according to this book.

However, I am now really confused by these two sentences. Do they have the same meaning, and also, is it right to say the sentence (1) is strictly ungrammatical?

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  • Why won't you tell what is the book is called, and who wrote it? Oct 7, 2020 at 6:08

1 Answer 1

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[1] *Only two of us had some experience in sailing.

[2] Only two of us had any experience in sailing.

Yes, (1) is ungrammatical.

"Any" and "some" are polar-sensitive items, with "some" having a positive orientation, and "any" a negative orientation.

"Only" is not negative, but it is semantically close to a negative, in that Only two of us entails that No one other than the two of us.

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  • Odd, [1] sounds fine to me, it seems to suggest more experience than "any." May 27, 2022 at 16:18

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