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Is it grammatical to ask Have you got paper?

Do you have to specify have you got a piece of paper, any paper, or some paper — or can you just say paper?

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You're asking specifically about the object (paper) only? –  Monica Cellio Dec 1 '11 at 22:35
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Yes. I'm a college student in Russia and I had a conflict with my english teacher , who would not believe that this version is in fact not Incorrect :( –  valentina Dec 1 '11 at 23:41
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Yeah, paper can be a mass noun like money or water, like @Snubian says. "The printer is out of paper" illustrates this in another way. –  Monica Cellio Dec 2 '11 at 3:01
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"Do you have paper", not "got". The word "got" sounds wrong. –  Fidge Feb 20 at 7:15
    
@Fidge Although purists would agree with you, current usage of 'got' in this construction is very common. And since it's the educated speakers who ultimately decide the correctness of anything, using 'got' isn't wrong. :) –  mikhailcazi Feb 20 at 10:14

6 Answers 6

I would say it's not incorrect grammatically speaking, but perhaps imprecise. It would be clearly incorrect to say something like "Have you got pencil?"

'Paper', on the other hand, in the sense you've used it is a mass noun. The usage in English seems a bit murky, but you'd be well understood in a classroom if you asked a child "Have you got paper?" in the same way as if you asked "Have you got money?"

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I've deleted my own answer because you've added the relevant fact that in this context, paper is a mass noun. But suppose the teacher had preceded the question with "For this lesson I want you each to paint two pictures - one seascape, and one landscape". In that case she'd expect any pupils who have only one sheet of paper to speak up. Effectively, the question means "Have you got enough paper?" –  FumbleFingers Dec 1 '11 at 23:29
    
@FumbleFingers, you're spot on, it's a question of context, and there are certainly lots of circumstances where one could add an extra word in there for clarity. –  Snubian Dec 1 '11 at 23:41
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I've seen several questions like this lately, where the only reason some particular variation occurs less often is because the contexts in which it would be suitable are less common. But people post answers saying the uncommon version is "wrong", and they get upvoted by others who simply don't stop to consider all possible contexts. It's totally different to those questions where OP defines exactly what context he has in mind - although even there we must be careful about saying some less common variant is actually wrong. –  FumbleFingers Dec 1 '11 at 23:59

Yes, it is grammatical. It shows a use of the zero article, of which the ‘Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English’ says, Zero article phrases commonly express non-specific or generic references. To see that ‘paper’ can occur with a zero article, we need look no further than Lewis Carroll:

The Beaver brought paper, portfolio, pens.

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If somebody went to a store intending to buy some paper, and didn't find any, I wouldn't think there was anything unusual if they asked:

Have you got paper?

But as the other answers say, in most contexts I would indeed find it unusual. I would expect a question more like:

Have you got a piece of paper?
Have you got some paper?
Have you got any paper?

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"Have you got paper?" is grammatically correct, but vague. A person could answer in the positive, if they had a single sheet or an entire ream.

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I disagree, per my comment to @Snubian's answer. There are contexts where the "unadorned" version is in fact more precise than versions including, say, any or some. –  FumbleFingers Dec 1 '11 at 23:32

I see that "have you got paper?" is not the same as ...a piece of paper, ...any paper, or ...some paper.

In the first case, I am concerned about paper, (the right kind in the right quantity, which is supposed to be understood) that would serve my purpose. All other forms of the sentence distract (from) the focus. I will be inviting trouble in the form of "I have lots of paper, but sorry no pieces"; "Would any paper really do?"; "How much, according to you, is some paper?"

So long as grammar lets me, I will focus on the core idea and leave the peripheral details unsaid. :)

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It is grammatical but not usual. The purpose of the question is ambiguous, and in speech this ambiguity would be odd. Alternatives:

  1. "Have you got any paper?" This sounds like a request for some paper, though context could change that.
  2. "Have you got some paper?" With the emphasis on 'got', it sounds like the plain question of whether you already have some paper, with an implicit offer of some or suggestion some is needed.
  3. "Have you got a piece of paper?" This is much like #1, but specifies a single piece.
  4. "Have you got some paper I can use?" This is much more explicitly a request.
  5. "Have you got some paper already?" This is much more explicitly a suggestion or offer.
  6. "Do you need some paper?" Explicitly an offer
  7. "Do you need to get some paper?" Explicitly a suggestion
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