When to use "some" instead of "a"

15

3

You were just having some dream.

and

You were just having a dream.

Are both correct? What is the difference, if any?

juergen d

Posted 2013-01-24T15:19:18.120

Reputation: 915

1Is this sentence from somewhere specific, or is it just an example you came up with for the purposes of the question? – Ken Bellows – 2013-01-24T15:48:31.720

@KenB: It is from the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in Minute 10:20. – juergen d – 2013-01-24T15:51:09.607

Some in your first example is a contraction of some of something. He was therefore having some or part of a dream. Having a dream refers to the whole dream, and not just part or some of it. You were having some dream! Changes the meaning to something else. – spiceyokooko – 2013-01-24T15:56:20.910

Answers

9

Yes, both are correct.

In your first example some is being used in an informal way.

There are two plausible interpretations for some.

The first possibility is that some means the dream is remarkable in some way (meaning 6 in the above link). It takes the place of a and adds this extra meaning to the sentence.

So

You were just having some dream!

Is pretty much the same as saying

You were just having a remarkable dream!

When you use some in this way, you must put emphasis on it.

Another example could be:

That is an apple.

vs

That is some apple!

Where the apple could for example be tastier than normal.

Some, used in this way, indicates that some attribute of the thing is surprisingly different to normal.

The other possibility is that some means a but in a dismissive way (meaning 2. in the link I provide).

So

You were just having some dream.

Could be interpreted as

You were just having a dream, don't worry about it.

or

You were just having a dream, it is of no importance.

Another example would be:

A- Who is that on stage?

B- Oh, just some roadie.

Because B doesn't think the roadie is of interest.

Matt Ellen

Posted 2013-01-24T15:19:18.120

Reputation: 2 467

1Bear in mind please the OP's question does not include an exclamation mark ! therefore your first instance interpretation may not be correct. – spiceyokooko – 2013-01-24T15:54:17.087

1@spiceyokooko good point. I've updated the answer – Matt Ellen – 2013-01-24T16:06:18.433

2

A would normally be used in this sense because there was only one dream. Some would normally be used when there is an indeterminate amount, e.g. "You were just eating some food."

ctype.h

Posted 2013-01-24T15:19:18.120

Reputation: 4 059

0

'Some' is used when the quantity of the object in question is either not countable, is unknown, or is not important. So you should say some sugar, some coffee, but not some dream, because dream is singular and therefore countable. However, you can say some dreams to indicate more than one dream, but where the exact number of dreams is not significant.

Walrus

Posted 2013-01-24T15:19:18.120

Reputation: 723