I pretty much hear some friend in the negative sense as in

Some friend you are!

How can some friend be used to express approval?

Please, provide examples and you may want to find out how you could help put some light on normal and sarcastic situations. The problem is that tone and context may play a significant role in catching on to the meaning.

Merriam Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary


3 informal

a - used to express approval

  • That was some game! [=that was a very good/enjoyable game]

b - used to express disapproval, disappointment, etc.

  • You have some nerve [=a lot of nerve] to say that!
  • You don't know how to get there? Some navigator you are! [=you're not a good navigator]
  • Some friend he is—he left me stranded at the train depot.

Tone and context are extremely important. The expression What a friend! What a game! What a vacation! are usually positive. Some, such as that was some trip! that was some vacation! even that was some game! could refer to both the positive and negative aspects of the thing: the person is commenting on how extraordinary or exhilarating the trip/vacation/game was, including both its negative and positive points.

To me some friend(s) is almost always negative. Even if stated positively, it can quickly become a joke and the negative meaning pointed out, by those same friends you are trying to speak positively about. In rare instances, some friend(s) could be positive...but it's hard to think of any off hand. Maybe some 80-year-old guy in a documentary film with tears in his eyes commenting without a hint of negativity in tone: those were some friends back then (as comrades in a war for example), and it would be an "ellipsis" of some real, true blue friends.

  • +1 X5 for "What a ..." form, "That was" hint, "Some friend ..." negativity, the example, and true blue. AlanCarmack, thank you. – learner Jul 19 '16 at 8:04

While the meaning of the term some friend largely depends on tone there are some cases where the phrasing can change the meaning. For example, saying you are quite a friend would, at least to me, be positive

Also, in written text having some friend in italics would indicated a sarcastic nature. An exclamation point may also, depending on context, indicate sarcasm, e.g. he/she is some friend!

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