'all of which' vs. 'any one of which' vs. 'each of which'

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9

1) ... if you tried to compare can't with cannot and can not, all of which are distinct in English, you'd end up ...

2) ... if you tried to compare can't with cannot and can not, any one of which is distinct in English, you'd end up ...

3) ... if you tried to compare can't with cannot and can not, each of which is distinct in English, you'd end up ...

Which one is good English, and why?

user2793

Posted 2013-11-24T16:55:10.777

Reputation:

When I wrote the original 1), it had italics :-) – snailplane – 2013-11-30T07:01:55.440

Answers

9

All OP's examples are perfectly good English, though (2) is perhaps a little odd in this exact context. And obviously, in this context, they all mean exactly the same thing.

But there are contexts where they're not so interchangeable (to a considerable extent, deriving trivially from the semantics of the specific words in the various idiomatic forms).


1: More than 10 additional Eocene species are known, all of which are American.

...where both any one of which and each of which would be completely unacceptable to me. Why suggest isolating one out of 10 species when the whole point is that they're all the same ("nationality", at least)?


2: Millions of these brakes have been discarded in unknown states of repair, any one of which could explode in the hands of a curious child.

...where any one of which is by far the best choice, since it accentuates the fact that if even one goes off, that would be pretty bad.


3: The team is then asked three questions, each of which is worth five points.

...where any one of which is a bad choice because it misleadingly isolates a single question (implying the team might only answer one). And all of which are is bad because it could easily be misinterpreted as meaning all three questions are worth five points collectively, in total (if they're all answered correctly).


One similar permutation that OP missed out (and which I personally prefer in this exact context) is...

4: Sometimes it is possible to break down long compounds into single elements of one syllable each, every one of which is distinct in meaning.

...where I honestly can't explain why I prefer every. There's nothing wrong with OP's every or all versions there (though again, any one of which doesn't work because of the unwanted "particularisation").

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2013-11-24T16:55:10.777

Reputation: 52 587

2

1 and 3 are good.

2 is no good.

"Any one of which is distinct" has the following problem.

If we want to say that all the objects in a set have some property, like distinctness, beauty, the color red, or whatever, then this is simply expressed using "all":

Any one of the flowers in this garden is beautiful.*

All of the flowers in this garden are beautiful.

The "any one" is possible, but is only used when all the objects have some property such that only one object shall be selected as a result of that property.

Any one of these parts is suitable for the repair job. [All are suitable, but only one is understood to be required for the repair job, which allows this grammar to be used.]

Note that this does not depend on the presence of "repair job", but on the semantics of the property of suitability:

Any one of these parts is of good quality.* [What? You mean all of them are of good quality.]

Any one of these parts is suitable. [Understood: suitability for some application that calls for one.]

Any two of these parts are suitable. [Clearly understood: for some application that requires two.]

Kaz

Posted 2013-11-24T16:55:10.777

Reputation: 6 114