Are we to use any with plurals or singulars?

8

Does he have any cars that are black in color?

Does he have any car that is black in color?

Are both the sentences grammatically correct? Are there any differences in their meaning?

lekon chekon

Posted 2016-12-14T11:53:30.237

Reputation: 2 741

Unrelated: you do not have to say "in color" after "black" in these sentences. In fact, the most natural way to say this in [Standard American] English is even shorter: "Does he have any black cars?" or "Does he have a black car?" (I would use "a black car" unless I'm talking about someone who has many cars, such as an auto dealer or collector.) – zwol – 2016-12-14T21:44:37.287

Answers

9

Both are correct.

However, the second ("any" + singular) is less commonly used nowadays, and so it sounds somewhat old-fashioned.

As for difference in meaning, in theory, the first is asking if he has multiple black cars, while the second is asking if he has at least one black car.

In practice, though, the first is used regardless of whether you expect him to have one black car or more than one, and you would expect "yes" to be the answer even if he has only one.

Note: I speak Australian English, and I can't promise that my impressions of what is "old-fashioned" will be valid for other dialects.

Tim Pederick

Posted 2016-12-14T11:53:30.237

Reputation: 6 267

1The second doesn't sound standard to my American ears. I think any with a singular would only be used with collective nouns, like water or even idea (does he have any idea what he did!?). – None – 2016-12-14T14:12:38.293

4@123 It's less common, but it makes grammatical sense. The word "anyone" is just "any one". For example, "Is any man here brave enough to challenge me?" To me, the difference is that, with a plural, you're interested in members of the set (however many there are). With the singular, you're interested in a single member of the set at a time. – Samthere – 2016-12-14T14:29:39.173

1@Samthere On the other hand, you wouldn't say Is any of you but rather Are any of you brave enough to challenge me. – None – 2016-12-14T14:31:08.057

2@123 That's because you're referring to "you", which takes "are" whether it's singular or collective. The singular "you" or "s/he" doesn't make sense with "any of", unless you're referring to parts of a person. "Is any of you" would make sense (but seem unusual) in odd situations, like "is any [part] of you sore?" – Samthere – 2016-12-14T14:36:36.993

I added a comment under SovereignSun's answer. -- Though I don't completely agree with the answer (because of the part "somewhat old-fashioned"), I think this answer is the best one we have at the moment. – Damkerng T. – 2016-12-14T15:09:42.463

"Is any of you brave enough to challenge me" is fine, if you mean "is any single person brave enough to challenge me one-to-one". "Are any of you..." could mean "are any group of people brave enough..." – alephzero – 2016-12-14T16:21:06.387

Agree with @123. If one was going to use the singular, I'd expect it to be "a" rather than "any": "Does he have a car that is black in color?" – Shufflepants – 2016-12-14T16:46:14.230

As a British English speaker I agree that both are correct, but the singular is old fashioned. Singular any is still commonly used in other contexts however e.g. "we buy any car" – mfitzp – 2016-12-14T19:47:03.333

5

Your first sentence is correct

Does he have any cars that are black in color?

which means "Are any of his cars black?".

However, your second sentence should read Does he have a car that is black in color?

which means "Is at least one of his cars black?"

Both questions are asking if "he" has any black cars.

Peter

Posted 2016-12-14T11:53:30.237

Reputation: 63 575

I added a comment under SovereignSun's answer. – Damkerng T. – 2016-12-14T15:08:32.083

1

"Any" is mostly used with uncountable and plural nouns, however, when we want to emphasize that "any" means "of any kind", it is quite natural to use "any" with singular uncountable nouns.

Only the first sentence is correct.

  1. Does he have any cars that are black in color?

Which means "Are any of his cars black?" as Peter answered.

  1. Does he have any car that is black in color?

Would sound like "Does he have any kind of car that is black in color?" which I find strange, except if you are trying to narrow the choice, however, if it were: "Does he have any car I can borrow?" - it would be correct.

As BBC states: We would normally require "a/an" before a singular countable noun.

So the second sentence should be:

  • Does he have a car that is black in color?

SovereignSun

Posted 2016-12-14T11:53:30.237

Reputation: 23 612

I'm not saying that I agree or disagree with your answer, but because your point seems to be hinged upon any kind to allow singular any NOUN (i.e., if it's a specific kind, we'd use the plural any NOUNs), these examples might be interesting to the reader: Was there any other man of his name in that ward? But never, however, was there any other man whom she loved. Was there any other man in English history so well-beloved that London juries twice saved his life by acquitting him against the clearest evidence of treason and felony? – Damkerng T. – 2016-12-14T15:07:20.077

@DamkerngT. Interesting point. "Other" implies that at least one man of his name was in the ward. In the first sentence I mean. The third sentence is also correct. – SovereignSun – 2016-12-14T15:43:03.567