The definition of 'some' reads as on OALD page

(#3) a large number or amount of something

But then the next entry says...

(#4) a small amount or number of something

I wonder if someone says ...

We have known each other for some years now


I met him some years back

What about that 'period' that 'some' mean? Long or short?

  • An year can mean a long time for some but short for others. Maybe we are not specific and that's where the word "some" kicks in. Ask a gamer, an hour is nothing for a gamer, but a lot for non-gamers.
    – Usernew
    Oct 9, 2015 at 14:32
  • In this answer, you wrote "In India, we refer that as a 'polythene bag'. Some years back, it was just a 'bag' but then due to the awareness about preserving our planet, the governments started acting strictly." It looks like you knew "some years" and knew how long it was. Oct 13, 2015 at 1:21
  • Ah, you follow my content so intensely. Thanks! And yes, I knew the meaning of 'some' but then, it always meant a few years to me and never 'large'. @DamkerngT.
    – Maulik V
    Oct 13, 2015 at 4:19

8 Answers 8


Checking more dictionaries might have helped:

4 A considerable amount or number of:
'I’ve known you for some years now'

Source: Oxford Dictionary Online

3. Being a considerable number or quantity:
'She has been directing films for some years now.'

Source: American Heritage Dictionary

B adjective
II. With plural nouns
8. A certain number of; a few at least
Or: at least a few
b In adverbial expressions of time.

'We shall meet some months hence'
'He has been here some years'

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

In general, in this context, some serves like a plural indefinite article. Thus the use of some does not give a definite number. But in time expressions, the OED says it means at least a few. That is vague. And that is what indefinite means.

The OED mentions for usage with singular nouns that some frequently implies 'not a little, considerable'. And the other dictionaries back this up. As other answers here have said or hinted, it often means: long enough! :)

A mother with a kid who is five would not say that her kid has played for some years with the next door kid who is also five. That doesn't fit.

A teenager would probably not say that she has known someone for some years now. Some does not fit the context.

As another answer has hinted or stated, the very word years means that a person has to be old enough to mean at least a few and imply a considerable amount.

In sum, the collocation some years does not at all mean a short time.


The use of "some" in those sentences is deliberately noncommittal. It means that the speaker has either forgotten or does not wish to state how long ago. In other words, the speaker is evading the question of how many years exactly.

Depending on the context, they may be implying that it is a sufficient number of years for making some particular judgement about the person they are talking about.

"I have known the defendant for some time and he is not the sort of person who would steal a policeman's helmet."

  • "Some years", while vague and indefinite, is an oft used collocation and it does not mean the speaker is "evading" or being "deliberately noncommittal". This assertion is wrong and misleading and so with heavy heart I downvote this answer. (native English speaker, or NES here)
    – user20792
    Dec 19, 2015 at 15:30
  • 2
    It does not always mean the speaker is culpably or deliberately evading, no. But is it noncommittal. The speaker is evading in the sense that they could have chosen to state an amount but chose not to do so. Trying to discern if "some" means a large amount of a small amount is a mistake. It is trying to read something into the text that isn't there. We may, though, in some cases, guess at the author's reasons for not stating a specific quantity when they could have done so.
    – user10365
    Dec 19, 2015 at 18:50

Some can mean both large and small amounts depending on the context in which it is used. Consider these examples:

A majority of persons were in favor of the vote but some were against it.

I have not read all of his books but I have definitely read some.

Some villages in this state frequently experience flooding.

The meaning of some and subsequently the meaning the sentence conveys is different in all of these sentences.

In your case, it will mean the speakers have known each other for a good number of years. They have not known each other since their beginnings, for, in that case they would have said We have known each other since forever Or We have always known each other.

  • In your first two examples, it's a contradictory supplement. Opposite to "majority* and "all* would certainly be a 'small' number. Say, if someone says Some years ago.... what does it mean? If you go by dictionaries, it could mean both!
    – Maulik V
    Oct 9, 2015 at 5:25
  • In regular usage, there are often words and phrases that you do not strictly go by the dictionaries. As stated in the third example, as well as in the explanation below that, some can be different based on context. In your example, it means a good number of years.
    – Mamta D
    Oct 9, 2015 at 5:27
  • @Damkerng +1 only in words? :D
    – Mamta D
    Oct 13, 2015 at 2:22
  • 1
    With the specific phrase "some years," it means a significant amount of years, ie. a long time. I would consider it more than "a few years" and interchangeable with "many years." As an American, I associate the phrasing "some years" with older people, whereas I would expect a younger person to say "many years," or even just "Years!" with emphasis on the word. Nov 16, 2015 at 22:25

First off, we must bear it in mind that we are talking about the use and the sense of the determiner some in front of time, hours, months, years, etc.

According to The Free Dictionary, you use "some" with "time" and words such as hours, months, years, etc. to refer to a fairly long time. For examples:

You will not be able to drive for some time after the operation.

We've been here for some hours now.

On the other hand, when you refer to a short period of time, you don't use some. Instead, you say a short time and use "a few" in front of hours, days, months, years, etc. For examples:

Her mother died only a short time later.

You'll be feeling better in a few days.

In addition, you van use the phrases "some little time", " some few hours, months, years", etc. to mean a short petiod of time. For examples:

Her mother died only some little time later.

You'll be feeling better in some few days.

However, if you want to refer to an unidentified or unknown time, you can use "some" before time. For examples

I saw him some time/sometime last summer.

We'll see some some time again, I am sure.

So whether some time means an identified time or a considerable/long time depends on the context.

As for "some years" in the sentence "We have known each other for some years" means a long time; a lot of years.

  • 1
    – Khan
    Dec 23, 2015 at 8:53
  • It can also suggest a short time, depending on the context. For example, when putting a child to sleep you might say "I can stay with you for some time". Dec 23, 2015 at 23:19
  • 1
    laugh, More often than not it'll mean a considerable time.
    – Khan
    Dec 24, 2015 at 2:28

"Some" you should think of as "undisclosed amount", with a connotation of little or a lot depending on context.

"I found some money" might mean you found $1, or maybe $1,000,000. However typically you probably mean closer to $1.

"Can I have some more?" typically only means "can I have a small to moderate amount more?". If you were served a plate of a food, and you asked for "some more", they would give you a second plate of equal or lesser amount.

"I have known him for some time" typically only means "a long time". You can think of this as "I have known him for a more than adequate enough amount of time to make whatever statements I made about him credible".

To copy another example:

"I have known the defendant for some time and he is not the sort of person who would steal a policeman's helmet."

This should be read as "I have known the defendant for a long enough time to know that he is not the sort of person who would steal a policeman's helmet."

  • "I invested some money in real estate". Is this one closer to $1 or to $1,000,000? Just to show that it depends on context... Dec 24, 2015 at 14:23

It really depends on the context. For example-

  1. "We've known each other since 19 years back."

    "We've known each other for some years now!"


  1. "How well are you and Bob met?"

    "Well, we've known each other for some years now."

It's ambiguous, but if the context is in (a) year(s), 1 year is still pretty long!


"Some", "a few"/"a little" and "many"/"much" are different ways of vaguely describing a quantity/amount ("some" can be used for both). They are all inexact, but depending on the context and some reference (that may be implicit), they may provide some information.

As an example, when talking about personal experience, "many years" suggests a considerable part of one's life (which is still vague... I'd think more than a quarter of one's age) while "a few years" suggests less than what one would like to have. "Some years" is even more vague, and may be interpreted as an attempt to avoid suggesting the number (but not necessarily so)... the only information it conveys is that the amount is not zero. In that, it is the opposite of "no" or "none".

(Consider the way I have used "some" in the first paragraph. Does it make sense?)

"Some" could suggest "more than you'd think" if the context implies the number is small, and vice versa.

If you want to convey a clear (but not exact) message, I would advise using "a few" or "many" or the like. If someone uses "some" when addressing you, you can deduce that they are discussing an amount that is not zero, but anything else is your own judgement.


Here "some" refers to a considerable amount of time period.Which is neither too long period nor very short amount of time.

Its all about to give meaning to the situation using the word "some". The meaning can be interpreted like, a.) Don't know a person very well but at the same time he/she knows the person.

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