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Someone asked me a great question: How do we know if the noun after the word any should be in plural form?

He gave the following examples:

Do you have any cheese?“
He doesn’t have any friends in Manila.
Any question or any questions?

Here’s what I found:

Any can be used with a singular (count or noncount noun) or a plural word. In most cases, we use the singular.

Examples: There isn’t any banana left. Any paper will do.

When using any with questions, we generally use plural. Example: Do you have any questions? Any comments? Violent reactions?

Note, however, that we can still use the singular with the question. Example: Do you have any question?

Still, if we prefer to phrase the question in the singular, it would be better to say, Do you have a question?

When using any in the negative, we generally use plural. Example: He doesn’t have any friends in Manila. If we refer to just one friend, it sounds better to say, He doesn’t have a friend in Manila.

Thus:

[ANY + noncount noun] Yes, possible. Example: Do you have any baggage?
[ANY + count noun singular] Yes, possible.
[ANY + count noun plural] Yes, possible.

In many instances, it helps to go with what sounds right.

Here is what the New Oxford American Dictionary says:

any [usu. with negative or in questions ] used to refer to one or some of a thing or number of things, no matter how much or many : [as adj. ] I don’t have any choice |do you have any tips to pass on? | [as pron. ] someone asked him for a match, but Joe didn’t have any | you don’t know any of my friends | if there is any left, throw it away.• [as pron. ] anyone : it ceased payments to any but the elderly or disabled.

USAGE When used as a pronoun, any can be used with either a singular or a plural verb, depending on the context: : we needed more sugar but there wasn’t any left (singular verb) or : are any of the new videos available? (plural verb).

Here’s what Dictionary.Com says:

any – one, some, every, or all without specification. EXAMPLES: Take any book you want. Are there any messages for me? Any child would love that. Give me any food you don’t want.

When used as a pronoun, “any” can take either a singular or plural verb, depending on how it is construed: Any of these books is suitable (that is, any one). But are any (that is, some) of them available?

The construction of “any” is often used in informal contexts to mean “of all,” as in “He is the best known of any living playwright.” In an earlier survey this example was unacceptable in writing to 67 percent of the Usage Panel. “Any” is also used to mean “at all” before a comparative adjective or adverb in questions and negative sentences: “Is she any better?” “Is he doing any better?” “He is not any friendlier than before.” This usage is entirely acceptable. The related use of any to modify a verb is considered informal. In writing, one should avoid sentences like “It didn’t hurt any” or “If the child cries any, give her the bottle.”

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One thought on “Is any singular?

  1. Pingback: Anyway(s) | Using a Borrowed Language

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