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During my lunch break, I usually go for a walk. If the weather is not so good, I read a book or some news.

Can we omit some here?

During my lunch break, I usually go for a walk. If the weather is not so good, I read a book or news.

For some reason, the first sentence looks better to me. Is it because news is a noncount noun and invites the use of some in some way?

Or is the second sentence really okay? Or are they both okay, but have different shades of meaning?

  • 2
    I read news sounds absolutely okay to me. – Maulik V Dec 8 '15 at 12:58
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    "I read a book or news" is grammatical but you wouldn't slip past a native speaker's "foreigner detection radar". We read the news. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 8 '15 at 13:38
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    Not obligatory, no, but you'd need a context that supported the categorical use, such as "I have a friend who reads the NY Times wedding announcements. Me, I don't consider that news." Or "I toss the Fashion and Cooking sections into the waste bin. I want news." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 8 '15 at 13:43
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    @TRomano: There's no question in my mind that I read a book or news screams "NNS!". I think it's because a book and news are almost unavoidably different "categories" (one's still usually a specific physical object, the other a far more general "noncount noun". Thus it's still "weird" (although not quite so bad) even if we include the article (the news). To me at least, the natural pairing is still a book or a newspaper - but usage may be changing even as we consider the issue, since paper books/newspapers are both being replaced by text on screens. – FumbleFingers Dec 8 '15 at 17:46
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    I might say "I read a poem or some fiction on my break" or "I read poetry or fiction" but not "I read a poem or fiction." It's unsettling to use a thing like "a poem" in parallel with a category like "fiction". It might be because I can say "a fiction book" or "a news article" and I expect the pattern "a book or (a) news article" but the sentence stops short. If you say "a book or some news" my expectation for the end of the sentence is different. – ColleenV Dec 8 '15 at 20:09
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During my lunch break, I usually go for a walk. If the weather is not so good (or: 'that great'), I read a book or (some) news.

No, you do not need some in your sentence. Trigger happy voters, please read the whole answer before voting on it. I'm a-gonna get to the news in a moment.

Some means

A certain (unspecified) amount, part, degree, or extent of (something) (Oxford English Dictonary, I.4.a)

It is often used before mass nouns, and news is a mass noun, at least in modern standard English.

Thus, the common opening:

I've got some good news and some bad news. Which do you want to hear first?

We could also say

Some news travels faster than other news (, namely bad news).

But, like with butter, the some is not necessary. And, by the way, you can answer the question 'What did you buy?' with 'I bought butter' or 'I bought some butter'.

Thus we have:

News travels fast in this day and age.

and

News travels fast in the country (rural areas).

and

That's news to me.

and

Have I got news for you...

And note, so far we have been using news in its basic meaning:

Newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events. (Oxford, definition 1)

Keeping this definition in mind, an example closer to your sentence of not using a determiner before news is

I read news for a living.

This sentence is not talking about the newspaper or magazines but about the stuff that newspapers report. It is still talking about Oxford, definition 1, not definition 1.1, which see.

And that stuff can be written down, so you can read it. And the guy who reads news for a living must have written sources or accounts or presentations of news to read.

And once it becomes published or broadcast, news is almost always the news. Cue Definition 1.1 in Oxford:

(the news) A broadcast or published report of news

So a native speaker gets his news (new information) from the news (new information in pubished or broadcast form). And so, a native speaker would expect the news in your sentence.

Another usage of the news is to talk about one item of news:

Have you heard the news? MJ died! We landed on the moon! The war is over! Etc!

And a response could be

That is some news.

And now the meaning of some, when stressed, means

Quite a; a remarkable [piece of news] (Cf OED).

An interesting variant of your sentence is

During my lunch break, I usually go for a walk. If the weather is not so good, I read some books or some news.

Here we are back to some meaning an indefinite amount. And, because of the dual use of some, this sentence sounds much more felicitous and non non-native. So don't ever let someone tell you that how a sentence sounds is never a factor in determining either grammaticality or "felcitousness."

  • I found it: "The zero article may be used instead of some, particularly if a contrast is implied prosodically: "I've just bought MELONS" (but not grapes); "I haven't bought BOOKS" (but I've bought magazines) (Quirk et al., 1985, 5.39) I forgot about the mention of prosody and only recalled the mention of a contrast. – CowperKettle Dec 9 '15 at 4:37
  • @CK Okay... NB "particularly if", but not necessarily. You can use some when you want, and you can forgo its use when you want. Watch more movies, read more (good) fiction: that will "learn" you how native speakers express themselves. – user20792 Dec 9 '15 at 9:02
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The normal way to say this is, "I read the news." That is, with the article "the".

I don't know that there's any general grammar rule why this is so. Arguably it's an idiom.

We say, "The fire was big news", no article. Or, "I heard good news today." "We haven't heard any news from Bob since the accident." That is, the individual facts or events are generally referred to as "news", without an article. But when you talk about reading, watching, or listening to some source of news, it becomes "the news". "I read the news in World Magazine." "I watched the news on CNN." "I listened to the news on radio station KHMO." "The news will be on at 6 o'clock." "I read an interesting story in the news." Etc.

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    So, "“If the weather is not so good, I read a book or the news”? – CowperKettle Dec 8 '15 at 15:16
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    @CopperKettle - That's what I would say. – stangdon Dec 8 '15 at 15:21
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    @CopperKettle Yes. – Jay Dec 8 '15 at 15:28
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    @CopperKettle Maybe it's the American in me but "the news" refers to a tv show, often... so I'd be more likely to say "read a book or a newspaper"... – Catija Dec 8 '15 at 20:13

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