Indefinite determiners for introducing an item in plural as new information


Oftentimes you would use an indefinite determiner (a(n), some, Ø) when introducing an item as new information. And I have been thinking of use of determiners when introducing a new item in plural.

In the following conversations, I feel B could say either some or Ø determiner (Ø article), and sound natural. What do you say?


A: Okay, choose something from this box. Does everyone have something in your hands?

B: (1-1) Yes, I have some pens. (1-2) Yes, I have pens.


(Showing weirdly-shaped pens to a friend)

B: (2-1) These are some pens. (2-2) These are pens.


Posted 2017-09-28T23:35:43.137

Reputation: 439

No determiner/article sounds better to my non-native ear. In the first sentence 1. - means you have a few pens, while, 2. - means you have an unknown amount of pens (few, some, a lot of, many, couple?). – SovereignSun – 2017-09-29T07:04:50.247

@SovereignSun - Yes, 'some' is also a quantifier. It more defines the perimeter. – Sssamy – 2017-09-29T12:34:30.907



Okay, choose something from this box. Does everyone have something in your hands?

There are two things you can mean with this question.

  • Choose one item from this box, any type.

  • Choose one type of item from this box (implied if there is 1 item per type in box)

Zero article is used if you are talking about something as a type or category versus an actual instance of something.

The determiner some X implies that X is part of a group that is itself part of a bigger group. It can typically mean "more than one X but not all X" or "a group of X that could be placed in a bigger group"

Yes, I have some pens (I have more than one pen but I don't believe I have all the pens - these pens came from a bigger group of something)

Yes, I have pens (as opposed to something of another type such as erasers, pencils, etc.)


Posted 2017-09-28T23:35:43.137

Reputation: 31 841


Answers have slightly different meaning based on context. Let me use your answers in different conversations to show the difference:

"A: What do you have on your table? (person wants to know something general)"
"B: I have pens."
"C: I have oranges."
"D: I have glasses."


"A: What do you see there?" (person doesn't see well so asks in general)
"B: These are pens."
"C: No, these are pencils."

Above are very simple portion of general information. Below are more specific.

"A: Do you have anything to write with?"
"B: I have some pens" (person is not sure if the pens are operable)


"A: I have lost my favorite pen. (sad face)"
"B: These are some pens, check them out, maybe one is yours." (person presents bunch of pens but doesn't know if there is the lost one)

The other meaning is when "some" gives information about undefined quantity, then "I have some pens" implies that you have a part of all.


Posted 2017-09-28T23:35:43.137

Reputation: 11