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a. He wanted to know where he could find any cigarettes.

b. He wanted to know where there were any cigarettes.

Would you say that the sentences sort of imply scarcity and he'd be happy if he could even find a cigarette or that he wanted to find all the places where there were cigarettes.

First case scenario: He was desperate for a smoke. He asked me if there were any cigarettes around. He wanted to know where he could find any cigarettes/there were any cigarettes.

Second case scenario: My dad had figured out that I smoked and that I had hidden cigarettes in my room. He wanted to know where he could find any cigarettes/where there were any cigarettes.

Many thanks

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    any is a "negative polarity" element, as in At first, he could not find any cigarettes. For the "positive" context, Later, he found some cigarettes. Oct 21, 2023 at 4:02
  • What are you actually trying to accomplish with your sentence? It's easier for us to give a good answer if you indicate what you're trying to say, rather than ask what the meanings of your sentences are. Which scenario are you trying to write about?
    – gotube
    Oct 21, 2023 at 18:37

1 Answer 1

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Both sentences are a little unusual, even in the given contexts. The first sentence would more commonly be

He wanted to know where he could find cigarettes.

This would be used in a general context, though "some cigarettes" could also be used. In the second context my father would normally use "the cigarettes" or "my cigarettes", as he is concerned with the cigarettes that I have.

In your first context you might use the above sentence or, if you wanted to emphasise a shortage of cigarettes, you might use

He wanted to know where he could find cigarettes - any cigarettes.

The second sentence is not idiomatic as it stands. In a general context it could be corrected to

He wanted to know where there were some cigarettes.

However if my father was looking for my cigarettes the sentence would be changed to

He wanted to know where my cigarettes were.

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  • Thank you both very much. In this case: "He wanted to know where there were some cigarettes. " Is he looking for ALL the places where there are cigarettes?
    – azz
    Oct 21, 2023 at 10:56
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    No, none of these statements say that he is looking for all the places where there are cigarettes. Using all my cigarettes would work in the second context, but not in the first.
    – Peter
    Oct 21, 2023 at 13:46

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