I was recently asked about the word some. It was already clear to the learner that we use some to refer to a quantity that isn’t exact. The learner himself gave examples of some + plural noun and some + noncount noun. Uncertainty was expressed over some + singular noun phrases. I began to wonder myself about the use of this determiner with singular nouns.
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English focuses first on some followed by plural nouns and noncount nouns. However, there is explanation of some with singular nouns in a later entry. I think it could be helpful for students to read through the various definitions, but it may be clearer and more memorable if they see these uses in one context.
The following conversation illustrates how some functions as a determiner to indicate one person or thing, and the speaker can’t really say who that person or thing is. The exact identity may be unkown, unclear, or not important. The conversation is informal because that’s likely the kind of spoken context we’d hear these phrases in. To interested students, I’d point out common singular nouns used this way: (people) some + guy, girl, boy, lady, kid / (things) some + idea, reason, excuse, way, kind of, sort of.
Note: I also included the conversational structure Some (person) you are! – which expresses disappointment or annoyance.
Brother: I don’t know. Just some guy. He didn’t say his name or leave a message.
Sister: Really? You must have had some idea who it was. It was someone from school, right? A young voice? Did it sound like Rick Johnson?
Brother: Rick Johnson, the football player? Maybe. It wasn’t an adult. It was just some kid. He said he’d call back.
Sister: Really? When?
Brother: How do I know when? At some point he’ll call again. Maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow. You know, there could be some reason for a guy to call you besides asking you out. Maybe it’s just a classmate who wants to ask you about a homework assignment. Why would someone like Rick Johnson call you?
Sister: Oh! You’re awful. Some brother you are!
Click here for a printable copy of this dialog. Uses of SOME_handout