Do we really need "some" here?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Couch Tomato, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. Couch Tomato

    Couch Tomato Senior Member

    Russian & Dutch
    From English Grammar in Use:

    Put in a/an or some where necessary. If no word is necessary, leave the space empty.

    I'm going shopping. I want to buy ..... new shoes.

    According to the book, we need "some" here, but I don't think we really need it.

    What do you think? Is there any difference with and without "some"?

    Thank you in advance.
     
  2. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Why do you think "some" is not needed?
    Personally, I could not say "I'm going shopping. I want to buy new shoes", and I do not hear this formulation from my contacts.
     
  3. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    This is quite an interesting question. I feel "some" is needed but can't quite explain why. Compare:

    I want to buy some curtains. I want to buy some new curtains.
    I want to buy new curtains for the living-room.

    If I say "I want to buy new shoes, not second-hand ones", then the "some" is not needed.
     
  4. Couch Tomato

    Couch Tomato Senior Member

    Russian & Dutch
    Thank you.

    Could it be because "some" means "a pair of"? I though that we could leave it out because it was understood. Here's a different example:

    I need new towels.
    I need some new towels.

    They both mean the same, right?
     
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    I'm with velisarius. It is odd. It is grammatical without 'some', but not quite right for some reason. Compare also:

    I want to buy shoes. :thumbsdown:
    I want to buy some shoes. :thumbsup:
    I want to buy eggs. :thumbsup:
    I want to buy some eggs.
    I want to buy stamps. :thumbsdown:
    I want to buy some stamps. :thumbsup:

    All six are possible, but we more commonly buy carrots and eggs than we do some carrots and eggs. Eggs come in definite numbers as much as stamps do, so I can't pin down what the relevant difference is. Edit: I've taken the ':thumbsdown:' off 'some eggs', as I think it's just as common. There is some slight difference, but I can't work out what.
     
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    There are plenty of examples in the Corpus of buying new things, eg.:

    1. We're all going to Plymouth next week to buy new shoes, so you see, we're Croesuses. The Distance Enchanted. Mary Gervaise.

    2. ‘To say you have to buy new shoes just because the high-tech elements are damaged is a lot of bull.’ Running. London: Stonehart Leisure Magazines, 1991

    3. While I could not afford to buy new books, I get what I like from the local library. Belfast Telegraph.

    There seem to me to be some cases where we are less likely to use some:

    a. where the new shoes are in contrast to old ones: 3. is an example of this. People buy both old and new books.

    b. where the new shoes are replacements. 2. is suggesting that the new shoes are replacements for the old ones, ie. new to us as opposed to the similar ones we've been wearing.

    In 1. I'd be perfectly happy with 'some new shoes', but 'new shoes' suggests, in the context, a more unusual event, as though they've needed new shoes for some time.
     
  7. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    I get the feeling if I say "I want to buy shoes" that I want to buy unlimited quantities of shoes, as we might say "I want to invest in grains". By saying "I want to buy some shoes" I limit the possible number of pairs of shoes I might want to buy. It kind of rules out the possibility that I might want to invest in huge quantities of footwear.

    That's why in my post no.3 I qualified the "new curtains" with " for the living room", since "I want to buy new curtains for the living room" limits the number of curtains, thus making "some" redundant.


    Obviously I exaggerate the difference in the two possible sentences to make it clear, but I think the vague idea is present when I go to say something like "I want to buy shoes" that I may want to go into the business of trading in shoes. For me the difference is very slight anyway, but enough to make it sound not quite natural.

    Likewise with entanglebank's "I want to buy stamps" - it's very open-ended, we feel we need to say "some stamps" to ground the sentence in reality.

    When we say "I need new towels"/"some new towels" if the "new" is emphasized in any way then "some" is not needed.
     
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hi Velisarius,

    I agree with much of what you say, but the question is about new shoes and I feel that the adjective makes a big difference here.
     
  9. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    I want to buy eggs/stamps/new shoes all sound fine to me.
     
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    To me too, Teddy, but would you ever say I want to buy some new eggs? And if so, under what circumstances?
     
  11. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    I'm sorry to disagree with several of you, but I see nothing wrong with "I want to buy new shoes." "Buy some new shoes" is probably more common and is how I'd usually say this, but "buy new shoes" is fine and idiomatic as well, particularly when it's a question of new vs. old, e.g.:
    A: "Are you going to wear your red pumps with that dress?"
    B: "No, I'm going to get/buy/find new shoes. I think black patent leather would look nice."
     
  12. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Another angle on this. I think it's related to the good old subject of definite/indefinite articles. Sorry, Couch Tomato, I know that's a thorny subject for native Russian speakers, since you seem to get by without them!;)

    Quite clearly, if the shoes in question are envisaged as a particular (or in some way defined) pair of shoes, the definite article is used :
    - "The new shoes I bought yesterday ..."
    - "I'm going to buy the new shoes I've been promising myself".

    Whereas, if we're talking about something in general (unspecified), we use the indefinite article (a, an) in the singular. The default plural of the indefinite article is no article (sometimes called the zero article):
    - "I love buying new shoes"
    - "Old shoes are always more comfortable than new shoes".

    I see "some" (sometimes described as a 'functional plural article') as a sort of half-way house, a compromise.
    In "I want to buy some new shoes", nothing would have justified the definite article, because the speaker hasn't identified a particular pair of shoes; but the speaker is already talking about something more concrete than just new shoes in general, so the zero indefinite article would be too unspecific.

    Saying "buy some new shoes" gives these shoes a potential identity that "buy new shoes" doesn't suggest.

    Ws:)
     
  13. Couch Tomato

    Couch Tomato Senior Member

    Russian & Dutch
    Thanks everyone for shedding some light on this matter.

    Only when I'm speaking Russian ;). I'm pretty comfortable with using articles. I have amended my profile, as many people list more than one native language.
     
  14. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Ooops, sorry CT, that was a bit presumptuous of me.:eek:

    ... and indeed, I've never known a Dutch-speaker have a problem with English articles.:cool:

    Ws:)
     
  15. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    I don't think so - I don't know what "new eggs" are.
     
  16. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    At risk of going slightly off topic, they could be ones to replace the old eggs that you threw out because they were rotten.;)

    Ws:)
     
  17. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    My point was, of course, that we are talking about new shoes, and the adjective makes a difference, I think, to when we use 'some'.
     
  18. nadoline New Member

    arabic
    what is the right answer some shoes or new shoes
     
  19. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    I agree with Wordsmyth in #12, it feels like something to do with articles.

    Another line of enquiry which hasn't been suggested yet, but which will be close to the heart of a Russian native speaker ;): partitive genitive - as mentioned briefly in this Wikipedia article (scroll down to "Partial direct object" near the bottom), as in "Would you like some tea?" "You need to get some rest."

    Does that strike a chord with anyone, or is it a total red herring?
     
  20. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Welcome to the forum, nadoline.

    If you mean the right answer to the question in English Grammar in Use (post #1), Couch Tomato has said that the book suggests "some new shoes".

    However, as the discussion in this thread shows, "buy new shoes" and "buy some new shoes" can both be right, depending on context and nuance — and often they may even be interchangeable.

    Ws:)
     
  21. nadoline New Member

    arabic
    from my point it's depending about the quantities i need to buy
     
  22. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    << Deleted response to an off-topic post (although it was helpful, sorry about that). >>

    As for your point about quantity, "some" can be used as a quantifier, but that's not the case in the example we're discussing here. In this case it's acting as a sort of plural article (plural of a/an).

    I hope that helps.

    Ws:)
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  23. Kayta

    Kayta Junior Member

    Newcastle, Australia
    English - Australia
    I would quite comfortably say "I want to buy new shoes." To me it implies that the shoes are new to me, not necessarily brand new or not second hand.
    e.g. "I'm going to the op-shop to buy new shoes."
     
  24. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Thank you for this, Kayta. It's a point I was making in #6. Nobody else seemed to take it seriously.

    Couldn't you buy new shoes at an ordinary shop? I'm wondering how powerful that implication is.
     
  25. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I did, TT. Hence my #16 about new eggs.

    I agree that the presence of an adjective might affect a speaker's instinct (to add "some" or not). I'm not sure why; maybe it's just a desire to have something in between "buy" and "shoes". So ...
    1) "I want to buy shoes" may sound somehow incomplete (even though it's not really).
    2) "I want to buy some shoes" solves the 'problem'.
    3) "I want to buy new shoes" doesn't sound as naked as (1); the extra word makes it sound more complete, so "some" isn't needed to fill it out.
    4) "I want to buy some new shoes" does, I believe, have the added nuance of making the phrase potentially less general (see my #12).

    Well, it's a theory — and it probably belongs in the field of linguistic psychology, rather than in the realms of grammar and syntax — so of course it's open to debate.

    Ws
    :)
     
  26. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    Then you don't know many Dutch people.There are many who have problems with articles. Even native English speakers have some problems with, for example, a hotel or is it an otel?

    GF..

    http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/a-historic-event-or-an-historic-event An is the form of the indefinite article that is used before a spoken vowel sound: it doesn’t matter how the written word in question is actually spelled. So, we say ‘an honour’, ‘an hour’, or ‘an heir’, for example, because the initial letter ‘h’ in all three words is not actually pronounced. By contrast we say ‘a hair’ or ‘a horse’ because, in these cases, the ‘h’ is pronounced.

    How many of use natives use one of/both a(n) (h)otel. I know I use both.

    I know some Dutch who do speak better english than most Brits, most of the time. But I could catch most of them out....
     
  27. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    There is a semantic difference (a difference in the factual message being conveyed) between two expressions, both of them natural English:
    'I want to buy new shoes' suggests that the speaker intends to replace an old pair of shoes with a new pair.
    'I want to buy some new shoes' suggests that the speaker intends to buy more than one pair of shoes.
     
  28. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think there's room for more than one view here.

    I don't see that I want to buy some new shoes suggests that the speaker wishes to buy more than one pair. As shoes come in pairs the plural in new shoes doesn't imply, in my view, that we are necessarily dealing with more than one pair. I'd say the statement was neutral on the point.
     
  29. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The two expressions are not exclusive. The addition of 'some' does not imply more than one pair, but suggests it.

    In other words, when we add 'some', the likelihood is greater that more than one pair of shoes is meant.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2012
  30. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I'm with TT on this one.

    In fact, the likelihood of "some new shoes" meaning more than one pair is very dependent on people's shopping habits. I have no statistics to prove it, but I'd guess that the majority of shoe purchases constitutes just one pair. If so, then the likelihood of "some new shoes" meaning one pair is greater than of it meaning more than one pair.

    Also, regardless of how many, I'd say that "I want to buy some new shoes" is probably a more natural spoken expression for most people than "I want to buy new shoes" (though maybe that's true only for native English speakers with whom I come into contact).
    Well, I do know many Dutch people. But I accept that my statement, taken literally, was inaccurate. I should have said "Of the many Dutch people I know, I don't remember any having a problem with English articles."

    Ws:)
     

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