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When did you last eat some chocolate?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hedgy, Dec 11, 2012.

  1. hedgy Senior Member

    Catalan
    I know we usually use some in questions when we offer things or ask for things:
    Do you want some more cake?
    Can you lend me some sugar, please?
    It is also said that we can use it when we know that the answer is going to be yes.
    However, I have just seen this sentence, it is written in a coursebook and in fact, there are many more like this one:
    When did you last eat some chocolate?
    we are not offering things, asking for things, and the answer cannot be Yes. So why some?
    I must admit that I would never use any in this sentences, but I don't know why.
     
  2. Bill Osler

    Bill Osler Senior Member

    North Carolina, USA
    English, USA
    I am not a grammar guru by any means, but I do not think I see any real difference in meaning between:
    When did you last eat chocolate?
    When did you last eat some chocolate?
    When did you last eat any chocolate?
    That said, I think the one I would be most likely to use is the second: When did you last eat some chocolate?
    I cannot even begin to explain why.
     
  3. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    You use "some" with chocolate because (a) "chocolate" is an uncountable noun and (b) some is an indefinite quantity.

    egg is a countable noun, so we say,

    "Can you give me two eggs?" - but

    "Bread" is also uncountable, so you cannot say (except in very specialised contexts) "Can you give me two breads?" But you can say, "Can you give me some bread?"
     
  4. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    I have no problems with using chocolate as a countable noun. "How many chocolates do you want?" "I'll have two chocolates, please." But the item chocolate here is a chocolate filled with something and the chocolate is inside a foil/paper wrapping. Chocolates in this form are countable...

    GF..

    But then chocolate does come in big lumps before it is processed into chocolate bars.
    And paraphrasing from the opening thread "When did you last eat 2 chocolates?", "About five minutes ago".
     
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Neither do I George, but the thread is "When did you last eat some chocolate?" not "When did you last eat some chocolates?", which is why I changed the example to bread to avoid the confusion.
     
  6. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    I think I would say in a question: when did you last eat chocolate? I don't think it needs to be qualified with anything, like some, a little, a piece etc. I'd leave it open. The answer from the other person will qualify it. Yes, I had some chocolate yesterday, a little bit of/ a lot of chocolate, two bonbons, three chocolate bars, whatever...
     
  7. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I agree with Merquiades (post #6); neither "some" nor "any" is necessary or desirable.
     
  8. hedgy Senior Member

    Catalan
    I feel sorry but I still do not know why some is in that question. As I told you it is from a coursebook, so I'm 99% sure it is correct. Can anyone help me?
     
  9. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The three variants presented by Bill Osler are all correct English and each has a different emphasis.
     
  10. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    First, you do need to know about countable and uncountable nouns. Here is some guidance, which you should look at to ensure you know the difference:

    http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/nouns-un-countable.htm (follow each of the three links on that page.)

    Your examples are

    Do you want some more cake?
    Can you lend me some sugar, please?


    In this context, the examples, both cake and sugar, are uncountable nouns.

    It would sound strange if you added a number to the sentence:

    e.g.
    “Do you want TWO more cake?” or “Can you lend me TWO sugar, please?” :cross:

    But, if your example had been about eggs, then egg would have to have a number:

    “Can you lend me egg, please?” :cross:
    “Can you lend me an (= one) egg, please? :tick:
    “Can you lend me two eggs, please?” :tick:

    Cake (and chocolate) is weakly uncountable (i.e. cake (and chocolate) can also be countable)

    e.g.
    “Pass me two cakes.” :tick: i.e. two whole cakes – countable - <e.g. deux madeleines>
    “Pass me some cake.” :tick: i.e. a portion of/an amount of/some cake. – uncountable - <e.g. du grand gateau>

    Sugar is strongly uncountable (i.e. only very rarely can it be countable)
    Can you lend me TWO sugar(s), please?” :cross:
    “Can you lend me some sugar, please?” :tick:

    So, in your examples, when you offer someone some cake, or some chocolate or some sugar – you are offering them an uncertain amount of cake, sugar, chocolate.
     
  11. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    I don't think your coursebook is incorrect at all. When was the last time you ate some chocolate? is a fine sentence. It just sounds a bit strange to me personally. I'll try to explain why. In this sentence "chocolate" is considered an uncountable noun. We know that because the author did not write "some chocolates". So chocolate is viewed as an unmeasured material like sugar, cream, salt. "A kilo of, a spoonful of, a chunk of chocolate" and measurements like that come to mind. "Some" is an "indefinite amount/ quantity of". So the sentence sounds to me like "When was the last time you ate "some indefinite amount" of chocolate?" Fine but strange. I would not say it. That's why the version "When was the last time you ate chocolate?" sounds more natural to me. It lets the person answering qualify what it was he actually ate.

    Notice that this type of structure is very different from "Some" as a suggestion. That's not the case with the sentence in your book... When was the last time.... A suggestion/ offering/ proposal often uses "some (an indefinite amount of something)" when you use these types of uncountable nouns and you're offering to give part of a whole, but not all of it.
    Do you want some coffee? I have a pot freshly made and want to share some of it with you.
    Would you care for some chocolate? I am eating some kind of chocolate and am offering to give you a portion of it.
    Would you care for some hot chocolate? I am preparing it... do you want to join me?
    Would you like me to put some cream in your coffee? I'll put in a small/generous amount of the pint I have in the refrigerator...
    Do you want some beer? I'd like to give you some of the beer I have.

    As I said, chocolate can be countable.
    Do you want a few chocolates? I've got a box of bonbons and am offering to share them with you.
    I'll take those two chocolates with rum in the middle.
     
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I've been puzzling about this, and I'm still not sure I can explain properly:(.

    I think that in practice there might be a link with the "some" used in offers. If I say "Would you like some chocolate?" I'm implying I'm starting from the assumption that you would like some chocolate - would you?

    If I say "When did you last eat some chocolate?" I think I'm implying I'm starting from the assumption that you eat chocolate from time to time - when did you last have some?

    As I say, though, I'm not 100% sure about this. I am sure, though, that "When did you last eat some chocolate?" is a perfectly natural sentence:).
     
  13. hedgy Senior Member

    Catalan
    thank you very much
     
  14. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    There are some other angles on the subject (of using or omitting "some") in this thread, entitled "Do we really need "some" here".

    Ws:)
     
  15. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Having a look at this thread and the other one Wordsmyth linked us with, I think there just might be regional differences in the use of "some" when it's not a partitive article or used in a suggestion/ proposal. In both the question which is the subject of this thread "When was the last time you ate (some) chocolate?" and the other one "I'm going shopping to buy (some) new shoes", it always sounds better to me to eliminate the "some" in a neutral sentence. I'm not saying I find it impossible to say "some" and would never say it myself, it's just I find it normal not to say it. That could be the Northeast USA in me.
     
  16. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Agreed, merquiades: there seems to be a greater tendency in BrE to use "some" in those cases where there's a choice of including it or not. But, as you suggest, it's not a hard and fast difference.

    Ws:)
     

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