what nobody bought was any beer

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magdalena

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I've found a very interesting question in your language polls section" What nobody bought was any beer". As I understand it, the problem word here is any. If we treat this sentence as positive (which it, gramatically, is) any is incorrect here. So, is there a special term for this kind of a sentence? (the form of positive sentence but with negative meaning - nobody, no-one, nowhere etc)?
 

rewboss

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It's not quite true that you cannot use "any" in a positive sentence. It's usually taught that way, because that is the usual rule we follow, but actually the choice between "some" and "any" is subject to much more subtle rules.

For example:

He welcomed any stray cats into his home.
He welcomed some stray cats into his home.

The first sentence means that, as a matter of principle, if a stray cat came to his home, he would not turn it away. The second sentence means that at some definite time in the past, he welcomed an unspecified number of stray cats into his home, but this doesn't mean he would always do this.

Or compare these two sentences:

Do you have some beer?
Do you have any beer?

Spoken in a neutral tone, both these sentences mean roughly the same thing. But if I put special emphasis on the second sentence, I can make it express incredulity or frustration: "I can't believe you have no beer! What kind of a host are you?"
 

2006

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I've found a very interesting question in your language polls section" What nobody bought was any beer". As I understand it, the problem word here is any. If we treat this sentence as positive (which it, gramatically, is) any is incorrect here. So, is there a special term for this kind of a sentence? (the form of positive sentence but with negative meaning - nobody, no-one, nowhere etc)?

Most native speakers that I know will say 'What nobody bought was beer.'
After all, "any" would serve no useful purpose in that sentence.
A similar sentence is 'The thing that nobody bought was beer.'
 

Wuisi

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Hi,
I just need some further information. What would happen if we turned it into a cleft sentence, would it be:
1.- It was some beer that nobody bought.
2.- It was any beer that nobody bought.
3.- It was no beer that anybody bought.
4.- any others... (It was beer that nobody bought)...
I'd really appreciate an answer. Bye.
 

riverkid

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All are likely possible, in some language situation, Wuisi. Often we get cute with language, some people more than others.

Hi,
I just need some further information. What would happen if we turned it into a cleft sentence, would it be:

1.- It was some beer that nobody bought.

A: Is there some beer?

B: [looking at C who was supposed to get the beer] It was some beer that nobody bought! [Number 3 could be used here too]


2.- It was any beer that nobody bought.

A: Is there any beer?

B: [looking at C who was supposed to get the beer] It was any beer that nobody bought! [Number 3 could be used here too]


3.- It was no beer that anybody bought.
4.- any others... (It was beer that nobody bought)...
I'd really appreciate an answer. Bye.

##
 

2006

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Hi,
I just need some further information. What would happen if we turned it into a cleft sentence, would it be:
1.- It was some beer that nobody bought.
2.- It was any beer that nobody bought.
3.- It was no beer that anybody bought.
4.- any others... (It was beer that nobody bought)...This is the only one that I would say. You don't need a modifier before "beer".
I'd really appreciate an answer. Bye.
2006
 

Wuisi

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Hi again, and thanks,
I don't really mean to complicate matters but I'm getting used to all that rephrasing stuff and there are a lot of rules in my head. I just try to put them to the test whenever I can. I'm just trying to work out some kind of rule as to how to keep the balance and the meaning when dealing with these non-assertive words. In an exercise, I reckon, the original sentence will be: 'Nobody bought any beer' and then we will be asked to rephrase it: What.... (What nobody bought was any beer -I've been told the emphasis is on the verb/action here) or It... (to place emphasis on any other part of the sentence). I didn't really know whether 'It was any beer that ....' was ok or we had to introduce the negative part first -for emphasis- and transfer 'any' to 'anybody'- 'It was no beer that anybody bought'. Just trying to 'loop the loop' you may think, but the exercises they give us are just like this. If they are all possible, then I think 'It was beer that nobody bought' is the best, but I'm not sure whether we are missing part of the information conveyed by 'any' or whether that information is really important. Thanks, anyway.
Regards.
 

BobK

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I agree that 'It was beer that nobody bought' is most likely in my experience, but as RK says there are lots of other possibilities. If you wanted to emphasize the anyness, you could even say ''It was beer that nobody bought any of".

b
 

rewboss

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the anyness

Proof that sometimes it's very difficult to talk about language, which is ironic, really. :-D

The thing is that we learn certain rules at school, but those are the ones that apply for standard, neutral language. But we should perhaps view them as rules of thumb, useful "rules" for learners of the language; but very experienced users (native speakers, for example) can, and often do, "break" these "rules" for the purposes of emphasis or, sometimes, humour. This is a high-risk strategy for inexperienced users, because if you get it wrong, it can lead to misunderstandings.

So ESLs are told not to construct sentences like "I would like any beer" because, in the usual sense of "I will gratefully accept an unspecified amount of beer" (perhaps a host has just asked what you would like to drink), the word of choice is "some". But native speakers will regularly break this rule, although when they do they typically add a certain inflection which means: "I will accept whatever beer you care to offer me."

It might be closer to the truth to say that "any" means "whatever" or "no matter what kind", while "some" means "an unspecified or unknown amount or number of". That's a tricky distinction to make, though, and teachers and text-books default to the easier rule.
 

BobK

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As RK said, 'Often we get cute with language', and in this post I was doing that:
I agree that 'It was beer that nobody bought' is most likely in my experience, but as RK says there are lots of other possibilities. If you wanted to emphasize the anyness, you could even say ''It was beer that nobody bought any of".

b

That possible utterance would sound a bit odd; it just might occur, and would be understood - though the speaker might well be smiling when they said it! ;-)

b
 

susiedqq

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It's "low" English, for sure - but heard all the time. :lol:

It is a kind of whining, a lamenting sentence, that complains out of all the people, no one person brought beer to the party - in fact, there wasn't ANY beer bought, by anyone!

Bummer!
 

Wuisi

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Hi,
As for 'GETTING CUTE WITH LANGUAGE', (some people more than others):cry:, it is not a personal choice but rather a requirement imposed on us students. However, don't worry, I don't take any offence at all.:lol:
I will let you with some examples so that you can understand why we grow so 'cute'...:shock: Rephrase (for you it will be not very different from killing time in front of some crosswords -I reckon that's the way I would feel if asked about Spanish- but for us it can be quite 'intriguing' so to speak).

NOBODY from this school has EVER written a better composition.
NEVER_________________________________________________.
Exhaustion prevented ANY of the runners from finishing the race.
SO____________________________________________________.
NOBODY could have done ANYTHING to prevent the problem from arising.
NOTHING_______________________________________________.
And today's guest star:
NOBODY bought ANY beer.
IT_____________________________________________________.
Regards:lol:
 
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