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Any is a determiner and a pronoun.

Any as a determiner

We use any before nouns to refer to indefinite or unknown quantities or an unlimited entity:

Did you bring any bread?

Mr Jacobson refused to answer any questions.

If I were able to travel back to any place and time in history, I would go to ancient China.

Any as a determiner has two forms: a strong form and a weak form. The forms have different meanings.

Weak form any: indefinite quantities

We use any for indefinite quantities in questions and negative sentences. We use some in affirmative sentences:

Have you got any eggs?

I haven’t got any eggs.

I’ve got some eggs.

Not: I’ve got any eggs.

We use weak form any only with uncountable nouns or with plural nouns:

[talking about fuel for the car]

Do I need to get any petrol? (+ uncountable noun)

There aren’t any clean knives. They’re all in the dishwasher. (+ plural noun)

Warning:

We don’t use any with this meaning with singular countable nouns:

Have you got any Italian cookery books? (or … an Italian cookery book?)

Not: Have you got any Italian cookery book?

Strong form any meaning ‘it does not matter which’

We use any to mean ‘it does not matter which or what’, to describe something which is not limited. We use this meaning of any with all types of nouns and usually in affirmative sentences.

In speaking we often stress any:

Call 0800675-437 for any information about the courses. (+ uncountable noun)

When you make a late booking, you don’t know where you’re going to go, do you? It could be any destination. (+ singular countable noun)

[talking about a contract for new employees]

Do we have any form of agreement with new staff when they start? (+ singular countable noun)

[a parent talking to a child about a picture he has painted]

A:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen you paint such a beautiful picture before. Gosh! Did you choose the colours?

B:

We could choose any colours we wanted. (+ plural countable noun)

Any as a pronoun

Any can be used as a pronoun (without a noun following) when the noun is understood.

A:

Have you got some £1 coins on you?

B:

Sorry, I don’t think I have any. (understood: I don’t think I have any £1 coins.)

[parents talking about their children’s school homework]

A:

Do you find that Elizabeth gets lots of homework? Marie gets a lot.

B:

No not really. She gets hardly any. (understood: She gets hardly any homework.)

A:

What did you think of the cake? It was delicious, wasn’t it?

B:

I don’t know. I didn’t get any. (understood: I didn’t get any of the cake.)

Any of

We use any with of before articles (a/an, the), demonstratives (this, these), pronouns (you, us) or possessives (his, their):

Shall I keep any of these spices? I think they’re all out of date.

Not: … any these spices?

We use any of to refer to a part of a whole:

Are any of you going to the meeting?

I couldn’t answer any of these questions.

I listen to Abba but I’ve never bought any of their music.

Not any and no

Any doesn’t have a negative meaning on its own. It must be used with a negative word to mean the same as no.

Compare

not any

no

There aren’t any biscuits left. They’ve eaten them all.

There are no biscuits left. They’ve eaten them all.

I’m selling my computer because I haven’t got any space for it.

Not: … because I’ve got any space for it

I’m selling my computer because I’ve got no space for it.

There weren’t any technical problems. The singer had a sore throat so they cancelled the concert.

Not: There were any technical problems.

There were no technical problems. The singer had a sore throat so they cancelled the concert.

The examples with no in the right-hand column above give greater emphasis than the examples with not any in the left-hand column.

Any or every?

We use any and every to talk about the total numbers of things in a group. Their meanings are not exactly the same:

Any doctor can prescribe medicine. (or Every doctor can …)

Every always refers to the total number of something. Any refers to one, several or all of a total number. We use every not any with singular countable nouns when we mean ‘each individual member of a group of something’.

Compare

You can come over for dinner any evening.

It doesn’t matter which one, or you can come every evening.

He came over for dinner every evening last week.

All of the evenings.

Any and comparatives

We use any with comparative adjectives and adverbs:

You can’t buy this laptop any cheaper than here. (It isn’t possible to buy the laptop cheaper in another place.)

I’ll see if we can go any faster. (faster than we are going now)

Any: typical errors

  • We don’t use ‘weak form’ any with singular countable nouns:

They have a big lunch in school so they don’t need a hot meal in the evening.

Not: … so they don’t need any hot meal in the evening.

  • We use every not any with singular countable nouns when we mean ‘each individual member of a group’:

The hotel is luxurious and it has every type of activity.

Not: … it has any type of activity

  • We don’t use ‘weak form’ any on its own in statements. We use no or we put a negative word, e.g. not, before it:

There were no lifts so we had to climb five flights of stairs.

There weren’t any lifts so we had to climb five flights of stairs.

Not: There were any lifts

  • We use some not any before countable nouns in statements to refer to an indefinite quantity of something:

I must buy some plants. They’re so nice.

Not: I must buy any plants.

(“Any” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)
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