determiners for introduction of a new item in plural

Discussion in 'English Only' started by HSS, Sep 30, 2017.

  1. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    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?

    [1]
    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.​

    [2]
    (Showing weirdly-shaped pens to a friend)
    B:
    (2-1) These are some pens.
    (2-2) These are pens.​
     
  2. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    In reply to the question asked in [1] B may say either 1-1 or 1-2. In other non-reply sentences "I have some pens" is more common than "I have pens".

    I am puzzled about example [2]. What is B trying to say?

    I can only think of one possibility: the pens are so oddly shaped that B assumes his friend does not know that they are pens. So B is telling him "these objects are pens". He would use 2-2 to say that, not 2-1.

    He is really saying "these objects are pens" but leaving out the word "objects". In fact, the sentence means "each of these objects is a pen". That is why "some pens" cannot be used.
     
  3. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Yes, Doji, that's B's intention. He supposes his friend is not sure what they are he's holding, so he is explaining. Are you saying the purpose of the utterance is delivering the denotation of the objects, not the quantity of them; hence, (2-1) can't be used???
     
  4. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    We would not use it in that context (unlike the French, who do say 'some pens' - in French, of course).

    On the other hand, we say 'These are some pens!' as an exclamation meaning 'These are especially good / effective / valuable / etc. pens'.
     
  5. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    Yes. You can use "some" about the group, but not about each pen.

    It is quite common to have sentences whose subject is a plural like "these pens", but the rest of the sentence is talking about each individual pen, rather than the group of pens. There is probably a grammar term for it (but I don't know that term).
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  6. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi, Wandle. Right, that 'some' is an exclamatory marker, indicating the quality of each is out of the ordinary.

    Hi, Doji. Okay so (2-1) IS used in order to say those are pens and more than one pen exist there. Is that what you are saying?
     
  7. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    Sorry for confusing things. I wrote mistakenly. I should not have said (2-1) could be used. I meant "some pens" could be used in other sentences -- sentences that talk about the group, not about each pen.

    I will correct post #5.
     
  8. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Doji, what is the difference between talking about the group and talking about the individuals? Could you let me see examples?

    You mean something like:
    -These pens are some pens. (group)
    -These are pens. (individuals)

    ???
     
  9. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    I need a case to carry these pens: they won't fit in my pocket.

    These pens have blue ink, not black ink.
     

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