Is using “someone” in a question correct?

When reading about someone on the OALD, I saw the following note:

The difference between someone and anyone is the same as the difference between some and any. Look at the notes there.

The note that I read for some is the following:

In negative sentences and questions any is usually used instead of some:

I don’t want any more vegetables.
Is there any wine left?

However, some is used in questions that expect a positive reply:

Would you like some milk in your coffee?
Didn’t you borrow some books of mine?

Does that apply to someone too? Should I use someone in a question when I am expecting a positive answer?

Does someone know the answer?


I think your distinctions between some and any sound correct, though I can’t guarantee for certain that there are no exceptions.

Someone and anyone do not have a set rule, however. There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule; they’re used differently in different situations. In some situations there is a slight difference between them, in others I would consider them nearly interchangeable, and in others you must choose one or the other to be properly understood as they can have entirely disparate meanings.

John Lawler’s answer here on ELU attempts to explain why there is no set rule for when to use someone and anyone:

You are correct. There is no clear way to do this. Robin Lakoff’s paper entitled “Some Reasons Why There Can’t Be some ~ any Rule” is precisely about this situation.

Short summary of a few of the reasons:

  1. Any is a Negative Polarity Item, but some isn’t.
  2. Many environments (like questions) allow NPIs like any, but don’t disallow some.
  3. There are several kinds of any, including NPI any, and “Free Choice” any, as in
    • Any idiot can solve this problem.

And to answer the question in your title, it’s idiomatic to use anyone there; “Is there anyone among you who knows the answer?” (that is, more than one of them could know it). So it should read:

Does anyone know the answer?

Source : Link , Question Author : apaderno , Answer Author : WendiKidd

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