The well-known book English Grammar in Use [for intermediate] p.143 give this exercise choice:

I went to the library and borrowed books/some books.

The book answer (some books):

I went to the library and borrowed some books.

  1. If 'some' is not a mandatory word, then why is the sentence without 'some' wrong?


  1. What is the difference in meaning between 2 options above?

Edit 2: This question is different from the question: I buy some apples/apples in the shop, because the main purpose (product) of the library is books versus a shop that contains different types of products.

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    The sentence without 'some' is not wrong! It's syntactically fine - just not very idiomatic in that exact context. But it's perfectly natural with or without 'some' in, say, I went to the shop and bought [some] cigarettes. Jul 8, 2021 at 15:51
  • @FumbleFingers, agree—this is the question.
    – Ben
    Jul 8, 2021 at 16:08
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    I don't understand the purpose of your edit. I made the point in my comment that some Xs works better than the "zero article" in contexts where Xs are the only likely noun (you wouldn't borrow [some] cigarettes from the library, for example). I think that's really all you need to know to "explain" why you'd normally borrow some books from the library. Jul 8, 2021 at 16:51
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    @FeliniusRex I strongly disagree, see my answer. Jul 8, 2021 at 17:17
  • 1
    @DavidSiegel You know, I never know what to do when people tell me they disagree with me. Uhm, that's cool, I guess? Jul 8, 2021 at 17:25

1 Answer 1

  • I went to the library and borrowed some books.
  • I went to the library and borrowed books.

Both of these are perfectly grammatical and normal. A fluent speaker might say or write either. There is no significant difference in meaning. The first version, with "some" is more common, at least in my experience. This way of omitting an article, sometimes referred to as "using the zero article" is, I think more common than it used to be, but many people prefer to stick with older and more familiar forms. Which form is favored seems to vary by the exact situation.

  • I went to the store and bought groceries.
  • I went to the store and bought some groceries.

I think the version without some is more common. The idea that omitting "some" suggests that the person bought all the groceries in the store or borrowed all the books in the library is absurd. Common sense tells one othewise, and in any case a zero article does not imply "all the".

  • I went to the library and borrowed the books.

might be taken to imply all the books in the library, but more likely it refers to some specific group of books previously mentioned, as in:

My teacher gave me a list of books to read on this subject. I went to the library and borrowed the books.

Here it clearly means the books on the list, and no others.

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