When do I use: any, anyone, anybody, anything, anywhere? What does any mean?
There are three ways we usually use any:
1. In questions
2. In negative sentences
3. In positive sentences when it doesn’t matter
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1. In questions: any = one or more / a small amount or more
♦ Do you have any questions?
(one question or more than one)
♦ Is there any dinner left for me?
(a small amount of dinner or more – ‘dinner’ is uncountable)
♦ Did you know *anyone at the party?
(one person or more)
♦ Is there anything you need?
(one thing or more)
♦ Are you going anywhere for your anniversary?
(one place or more)
When we ask questions with any, we don’t know the answer. We don’t know if the answer will be ‘none’, ‘one’ or ‘fifty’; ‘none’, ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’. Any does not refer to something specific: specific questions, specific food, specific people, specific things, specific places. No, no no. We don’t know if our work colleague is celebrating his wedding anniversary by going away. Maybe he is going to celebrate with a romantic dinner at home. We don’t know his plans for his anniversary, if any, when we ask, Are you going anywhere for your anniversary?
(* The following pairs of words have the same meaning: anyone & anybody; someone & somebody; no-one & nobody; everyone & everybody.)
When we ask questions with some, we think that we know the answer. We see someone obviously looking for something. We ask, “Are you looking for something? Can I help?” They are not looking for just anything. They are looking for something specific.
We discover that our work colleague is going away for his wedding anniversary. We ask, “Are you going somewhere romantic?” We know that he is going somewhere specific and we want more information.
2. In negative sentences: not any = not one, none, nowhere, no, nothing
♦ I don’t have any questions.
(I have no questions. Questions? I have none. Not one.)
♦ We didn’t know anyone at the party!
(We did not know one person at the party, not even one!)
♦ I don’t need anything.
(I need nothing, not one thing.)
♦ We are not going anywhere for our anniversary.
(We are going nowhere, not one place.)
♦ There isn’t any beer in the fridge!
(There is no beer, none, not one bottle.)
♦ There wasn’t any food left after the party.
(There was no food left, nothing.)
Not any is specific, definite. We can also use never with any. Never = not ever.
♦ We never have any fun!
♦ I will never tell anyone your secret.
♦ We never go anywhere exciting.
♦ I’m throwing out these old clothes. I’ll never wear any of them again.
3. In positive sentences when the person or thing or place we are referring to is not important or it just does not matter
Any in these kinds of sentences is also not specific.
♦ You may ask any question you like. = It’s not important what you ask. Ask your questions, one question, ten questions; it doesn’t matter.
♦ Q. Can I bring some friends to the party?
A. Bring anyone you like! = It’s not important. Bring your mother if you like. Bring all your friends from work. It doesn’t matter who you bring.
♦ Take me anywhere! In her song ‘Anywhere‘, Rita Ora wants to go away, anywhere. It isn’t important where. It only matters that she goes away with the man she is in love with. Click here to watch the video.
♦ I’ll do anything! You can play any position you want! Charlie Brown desperately wants Snoopy to come back to the team. He’ll do anything for him; it’s not important what Snoopy asks for. He can have it. He can choose any position he wants. It doesn’t matter which position; he can have it.
English students sometimes use any when they should use some or other quantifiers.
♦ At my new school, I have made
♦ I have
♦ We have
This is a mistake. As I have explained, any is not specific; the number and amount is unclear. It could be one or a lot. How many friends have I made? One, two, fifty? How much money do I have? A little, a lot, millions? Remember that we use any in questions because we don’t know the number and amount and we are trying to find the answer. In positive sentences, we know.
♦ At my new school, I have made some friends.
♦ I have a little money.
♦ We have two dogs.
The music group Keane sings a song ‘Somewhere only we know’. It’s about a place known only to the singer and his partner. It’s a specific place, not just anywhere. Click here for the video with lyrics.
So remember that if you want to use any in positive sentences, only use it when it’s not important or doesn’t matter.
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