Use some+plural countable/uncountable noun in affirmative sentences. Use any+plural countable/uncountable noun in negative sentences and questions.Higher level books may go on to add that you use some in questions if you expect an affirmative answer, or in invitations, or various other situations. Not only does this ‘rule’ score low on generality, it still fails to explain:
Take any one you want. Any of the assistants at the desk will be able to help you. I didn't like some of his books.Compounds (somebody, somewhere etc) also create problems for this explanation, as many of them have to be explained separately.
An explanation based on the difference in meaning between some and any might eliminate many of these problems. Such an explanation might be along the lines of:
any+noun refers to an indeterminate subset of the collection of nouns referred to. some+noun refers to a particular subset of the collection of nouns referred to.This explanation is not particularly clear here, but can be made so by being presented in an adequate context. It does have the advantage of being a reasonable approximation to what the difference between some and any actually is. See 'some or any?' for an example of such a presentation.
The advantage of the traditional explanation is that it is easy to teach, which can be important for lower level classes, multi-lingual classes, and classes given by inexperienced teachers. However, ease of teaching should not be a prime concern - it is the teachers job to get their head around such problems. Ease of learning is more of an issue, but I don't think this is promoted by giving explanations which students will soon see being contradicted. At lower levels, if you must give an incorrect explanation, a lot of problems will be saved if you make the limitations of your explanation clear. In the above example, you might give the first explanation as a ‘rule of thumb’, emphasizing that, although it provides a guide for most situations, it is not to be considered a hard and fast rule.
The present perfect is used to describe experiences. The present perfect is used with adverbs of unfinished time. The present perfect is used for actions which can still happen, or can happen again.
How well do they explain:
I've been to Paris. I had cornflakes for breakfast today. The teacher hasn't arrived yet. I've done my homework.The first three examples can be explained by the third explanation given above; the first two explantions fall down at the second an third examples. The third explanation can cover all three examples and so can be considered complete in the sense that it explains all similar situations without any need for 'speacial pleading'. The fourth example, however, cannot be explained by any of the above explanations, and requires treatment as a separate situation or 'use' of the present perfect. See my page on the present perfect for a full analysis of situations where the present perfect is used.
It's years since I went to Scotland. It's years since I've been to Scotland.The first form would be included in most explanations (since + point in time), the second requires a bit more effort. If you compare the following examples, however:
It's years since I left school. INCORRECT *It's years since I've left school.*it becomes clear that the present perfect can be used after since only if the action can still happen - I can go to Scotland again, but I can't leave school again. This is the kind of explanation which, despite being simple, is omitted by most TEFL books.
INCORRECT? The car was too fast for me to follow it. The car went too fast for me to follow it.
Why can't 'it' be included in the first? Because here fast is an adjective and complement of the subject. In the second sentence fast is an adverb, and as it doesn't describe the subject we need to include an object for 'follow'. This is another explanation which is conspicuous by its absence from most TEFL books.
A slightly differentproblem is that with some structures, such as inversions, there are a lot of different cases to cover - it's difficult to be completely exhaustive.
I've chopped the onions. I've been chopping onions.Not very much. When to use one form or the other becomes much clearer if you explain that each sentence refers to a differnet type of result, so:
I've chopped the onions. (They're ready to fry.) I've been chopping onions. (That's why I'm crying.)With this information, students can choose the form to use depending on the message thay actually want to get across.
I wish you hadn't done that. If only you hadn't done that.The first sentence regrets the effect your action had on the speaker, the second expresses regret for the effect it had in general. The second, unlike the first, can be used to express sympathy.
I wish I had studied harder. If only I had studied harder.In the second sentence here the negative effects of my not studying are being felt now or 'immediately'. The first sentence might be referring to a negative effect at some time in the past.
I wish he didn't go on so much. I wish he wouldn't go on so much.The first sentence expresses regret about a fact that the speaker doesn't like. In the second the speaker also shows that he would like the situation to change. A full understanding of how we use will and would are required to analyse the second sentence, although it usually include in sections on wish/If only.
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