any question vs. any questions

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by ander1234, Sep 2, 2010.

  1. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    Hi!
    Feel free to text me with any question/questions
    I have come across this sentence this evening,and I didn't know which one to choose(question or questions).

    I know that if the sentence were negative or interrogative,the correct answer(or at least the most natural one)would be questions,but as it is an affirmative one,and,if I am right,"any" in affirmative sentences has the meaning of "no matter which",according to wordreference we should use any+singular noun in afirmative sentences

    http://www.wordreference.com/es/translation.asp?tranword=any

    However,I have done an exact search with google and I've got just 3 results for "question"(http://www.google.es/search?source=ig&hl=es&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ESES295&=&q=%22feel+free+to+text+me+with+any+question%22&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=) and 48 for "questions"(http://www.google.es/search?source=...=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&pbx=1&fp=6f1de62a8217f2cf)

    What do you think about it?Which one sounds better?I have always used any+singular noun in afirmative sentences,but I am a bit confused now....

    Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 2, 2010
  2. LauraK

    LauraK Senior Member

    Georgia, USA
    American English
    I can't explain the grammar, but "Feel free to text me with any questions" definitely sounds better to me....
     
  3. JB

    JB Senior Member

    Santa Monica, CA, EEUU
    English (AE)
    I, too, am unsure of the rule. But I might say:
    Call me if you have A question. "Any question" just sounds funny, although it might be valid.
    The more common usage (EEUU) is "any questions" in my experience. Maybe another forero will quote for you a formal rule.

    "Are there any questions" = ¿Alguien tiene pregunta?
     
  4. LauraK

    LauraK Senior Member

    Georgia, USA
    American English
    There are lots of cases that come to mind with countable nouns sounding better in the plural than in the singular with "any" in this sense:
    Do you have any pieces of pie left for me?
    We'll take any ideas you have about how to improve the article.
    If you have any books related to the topic, bring them to class.
    Etc....
     
  5. obz

    obz Senior Member

    Los foros de WR.
    Yankee English
    I agree with JB, strange does it sound "any question".

    "Call me with any questions you may have".

    Yeah, it still sounds better in plural. Though thinking about it, even though it is not a question, it works in the ambiguous or uncertain tense that "any" works with... which is generally plural.

    "Do you have any cats, hats, tires, fires, mice, etc"
    They all run in plural.

    However at the beginning of a sentence, in a more certain, assertive, authoritative tense, singularity is fine.

    "Any question can be answered..."
    "Any child can learn to swim"
    "Any wall can be torn down" etc
     
  6. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    But,for instance,if we take the example of wordreference("take any book you want"),it sounds to you better in the singular than in the plural,doesn't it?
    If so,then,as you say,there are some words in afirmative sentences that sound better in singular and others in plural?
     
  7. obz

    obz Senior Member

    Los foros de WR.
    Yankee English
    That is affirmative though, you know what books there are and are inviting the listener to take any one... no reason it couldn't be plural, if you wanted to offer this person multiple books I guess... though singular seems like the default.

    I have to admit as well that I don't know the definitive rule either (or even that there is one), but thinking about various examples, it seems this way.
     
  8. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    In an affirmative sentence, any means “all:” If I say any question will do, I mean that all questions have an equal chance of sufficing, regardless of which one is actually provided. Any can also mean “every:” If I say, any question should be submitted by text, I mean that every question should be submitted by text.
    The interesting thing is that an affirmative sentence is always a declarative sentence, and in a declarative sentence any can mean “of whatever kind.”
    Bottom line, it seems to me feel free to text me any question and feel free to text me any questions are equally valid; it depends if by any you mean the plural “all” or the singular “of whatever kind.” Now, If I make myself available for answers, then I suppose the normal expectation is that you would have more than one question to ask, which is why feel free to text me any questions seems to be preferred.

    Cheers
     
  9. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    Thank you Sevendays for your answer.Then,if I have understood correctly,the difference is this:

    -It's more common to say "take any book you want" because you are expected to take just one book (coge el libro que quieras,pero se supone que vas a coger 1)(in this case we usually refer to "of whatever kind",not to "all").

    -It's more natural "feel free to ask me any questions" because the one who says the sentence expects more than 1 question to be asked(Ask me all the questions you want)(In this case we usually refer to "all",not to "of whatever kind")

    Am I right?
     
  10. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    But Sevendays,looking up the word any in wordreference again,according to it, any with both meanings("of whatever kind/no matter which" and every/all)takes the singular form.

    (no matter which): take ~ book you want llévate cualquier libro
    (every, all): in ~ large school, you'll find that … en cualquier or todo colegio grande, verás que …


    Then,according to wordreference,we should use the singular in both cases,shouldn't we?
     
  11. kbck777 Senior Member

    American English
    if the word "any" comes directly after a verb, i think the noun thats attached to it has to be in the plural, I can't think of any word where this is not the case (in this case "of" seperates the verb from "any". When standing alone you can use a singular (any book that is fiction is not true) (any dog that is not potty trained will urinate in it's home) But if its attached to a verb you must pluralize it (Do we have any books that are fiction) (Are there any dogs over there?) If its important to stress the singularity, you have to switch "any" to "a" this is only a guess though...
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  12. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    Well, no. I think the dictionary is referring to semantics (meaning); that is, any has the same meaning as every and all. If I say, in any large school, my meaning is the same as saying all and every large school. The three are semantically similar. However, syntactically (that is, the arrangement of words in a sentence), they are not equal: any can go with singular and plural nouns (any school can participate; in any large school, you'll find that; are any schools open today?), every can only be followed by singular nouns (in every large school, you'll find that; every school has a summer break), and all can only be followed by plural nouns (all schools must teach English; in all schools, you'll find that ...).

    About your other message, yes, that's my understading of any book(s) and any question(s). I think it comes down to expectations. If I say, take any book, it is generally understood that you take only one book, probably because it is quite likely that there is a limited amount of books available. On the other hand, it isn't logical to think there is only a "limited" number of questions you can think of; in fact, the opposite is reasonable: there is no limit as to how many questions one can think of. That's why it feels more natural to say feel free to text me any questions. But if by "any" we mean "all," (as the dictionary says) then I don't see why we couldn't use the singular: text me any question (but we need to keep in mind that the natives say: it sounds odd). And just remember, if you choose "all," then, syntactically, the plural form must follow: feel free to text me all questions.

    I hope I'm not confusing you....
    Saludos
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  13. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    You wanted to say if by "any" we mean "every",don't you?If by "any" we mean "all",we had to use the plural form,as you have also said in your post


    Yes,I think I get what you mean.Although the meaning in the same for every and all,if we use "all" the sentence takes the plural form and if we use "every",the singular form.But this is the same that to say that you can choose whichever form you want,as the person who hears the sentence obviously doesn't know which form you have chosen(all or every),since both have the same meaning.

    So I think that choosing one form or the other comes down to the answer expected,don't you think?
     
  14. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    Yes, to the question, and yes to your conclusion: that's how I see it. Perhaps the natives will give us a broader perspective.
    Cheers
     
  15. obz

    obz Senior Member

    Los foros de WR.
    Yankee English
    This, is the definitive explanation that you should pay attention to.

    :thumbsup:
     
  16. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    But surely you can say:
    If you have any book on English usage, please let me know.
    If you have any books on English usage, please let me know.
    The only difference, perhaps, is that the plural suggests I'm interested in or expecting that you have more than one book on English usage.

    Unless I'm mistaken...
    Cheers
     
  17. obz

    obz Senior Member

    Los foros de WR.
    Yankee English
    I would never say the first. But nothing is stopping you from saying it.... just sounds very unnatural and foreign to me.

    The second is what I have said and heard my entire life.

    As kbck777 said, the first one, I would say with "a" in place of "any". Assuming that singular emphasis is important.

    This may seem more logical, but I regret to inform you that languages aren't always logical, especially to the foreign ear.
    As much as you may want it to make sense that way... it just is not how it is used. At least not in North American English, or any English I have ever heard.

    (¿Han algunos libros?... no se dice... pero sería más lógico que se dijese así, debido a la pluralidad del sujeto, "libros" ¿no?.. A pesar de este lógico, simplemente no es el caso)
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2010
  18. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    But that's just the point: there is a grammatical reason for not using han algunos libros; it is an impersonal construction and so the singular "hay" is used (and what follows is the direct object). Is there a grammatical reason that rejects If you have any book, or feel free to text me any message...? I think that's the question that has been lurking in the background throughout this thread, considering that several natives, including you, have stated uncertainty about a "definite" rule in this regard. But, as I already said, and it has already been established, it does sound unnatural, and perhaps we should leave it at that.
    Cheers
     
  19. obz

    obz Senior Member

    Los foros de WR.
    Yankee English
    http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/Determiners7c.cfm
    http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/adjectives-determiners-some-any.htm
    http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/rules/some.htm
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/any



    Espero que todo esto te sea más útil de lo que te hemos sido.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2010
  20. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    Don't say that;actually,all of you have been really helpful,as always.It's just that it's impossible to explain everything of a language through the grammar,sometimes we say something at the expense or other one and why don't know why,just because it sounds better to us,it happens to me more often than not in Spanish.....

    I have drawn some conclusions though:

    -After a verb:Any+plural.
    -Not after a verb:Any+plural/singular--there has been controversy about how to know which form is more natural in each case(Sevendays:the plural suggests I'm interested in or expecting that you have more than one book on English usage;obz:As much as you may want it to make sense that way... it just is not how it is used) so maybe in this cases the only way to know which form sounds more natural is learning each word by heart.At least we know that both forms are correct are gramatically correct....
    -If you don't want to to make life difficult for yourself and you want to stress singularity:"a"
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2010
  21. kbck777 Senior Member

    American English
    I agree with sevendays in that if you were to go up to a librarian for instance and say "Do you have any books on English Usage?" You must be thinking to yourself (they have multiple books on English Usage) whereas if you say "do you have a book on English Usage" its sortof like you doubt the possibility that there is one...but you ask anyway just to be sure.
     
  22. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    obz,I did not realise before,but I think that "the rule" after verb:any+plural probably is not correct.

    And the example is very clear:the one used by wordreference that we have also talked about in this thread: Take any book you want
     
  23. kbck777 Senior Member

    American English
    Are you familiar with the 4 english moods: declarative, interrogative, imperative, and indicative? I think that sentence just works because in that sentence "take" functions as a command, and is in the imperative mood. In any command you could use any + singular (eat any slice of pizza that you want). You could also do the same in any declarative statement (Im going to take any book I want). But if the sentence is interrogative or indicative that rule still applies: (Did you take any books off the shelf?) and (Julia didn't take any books off the shelf) I'm not sure why commands and declarative statements don't follow that rule, but if you make "take" function as solely a verb in the indicative or interrogative mood, it still works, as do all other verbs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010
  24. obz

    obz Senior Member

    Los foros de WR.
    Yankee English
    It is.

    Véase debajo.



    Es bien complejo, pero se ha vuelto a plantear aquí la explicación incontestable.
    No sé que más podría hacerse para ayudar. Pon ejemplos sí quieres y te ayudaremos, pero lo que ha dicho ya, y ha vuelto a decir kbck777 es lo correcto.

    Ander y SevenDays, Os deseo mucha suerte

    :thumbsup:
     
  25. Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    You generally use the singular "any question" when you mean "any doubt", as in: "Is there any question that we would have had a better time if we'd had more money?"

    You use "any questions" when you are soliciting real questions -- "Do you have any questions about your homework?"
     
  26. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    Ok,I get it.Thank you so much for wishing me luck,obz.I don't have to pass more exams of English,as I already have the CPE(C2),but I still have to improve my English,especially my listening(there are some episodes of House,for instance,in which I don't understand almost anything hehe).About realise I think I am right.It's "realize" in American English and "realise" in British English,just a matter of style.I am European,so I am more used to writing in British English,as it is the one we learn here.

    kbck777,I know that,but I was referring just to the afirmative sentences,which are all this thread is about,sorry if I didn't make myself understood....I meant that maybe the rule is not correct in afirmative sentences

    By the way,is it correct which are all this thread is about?Because I have always heard "This is all it is about" and sentences like like,but I don't know if I had made a good use of this structure in this sentence.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010
  27. kbck777 Senior Member

    American English
    you can use that construction, but you have to change "are" to "is"
     
  28. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    Ok,thank you so much kbck777
     
  29. kbck777 Senior Member

    American English
    no problem, its a weird rule, even though affirmative sentences is a plural noun, you have to use "is" in that construction because that construction talks about ideas, which are always singular. Like, if you reword it sort of you could say: this thread is all about (the idea/concept of) affirmative sentences. since "the idea" is singular, you always have to be like: I was talking about dogs, which is all this..whatever..is about.
     
  30. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Todo depende del contexto y de lo que quiera decirse:

    Take any books you want.
    = If you want a book, take it; if you want more than one, take them.

    Take any book you want.
    = When (or if) you want to take a book, take whichever book you choose.

    Feel free to text me if you want any book. OK (en ciertos contextos)

    Feel free to text me if you have any question. Excepción
    [Solo se dice con el sentido "... si hay alguna cuestión".]

    Feel free to text me if you want books.
    Feel free to text me if you have questions.
    Feel free to text me if you want any books.
    Feel free to text me if you have any questions.
    Feel free to text me if you want a book.
    Feel free to text me if you have a question.

    Estas frases son un poco negativas en que no presumen que habrá preguntas (ni que libros se querrán):

    Feel free to text me with any questions you may have.
    Feel free to text me with any question you may have.
    Feel free to text me about any book(s) you may want.
    Feel free to text me with any additional questions you may have.
    Feel free to text me with any additional question you may have.
    Feel free to text me about any additional book(s) you may want.

    Any more no conviene con contable singular:

    Feel free to text me with any more questions you may have. :tick:
    Feel free to text me about any more books you may want. :tick:
    Feel free to text me with any more question you may have. :cross:
    Feel free to text me about any more book you may want. :cross:

    No estoy seguro si any further se usa con contable singular:

    Feel free to text me with any further questions you may have. :tick:
    Feel free to text me with any further question you may have. :confused:


     
  31. kbck777 Senior Member

    American English
    I would never ever ever say that sentence. I would say "feel free to text me if you want a book" replacing "a" with "any" doesn't work there.
     
  32. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I have no problem with referring to the affirmative sentences in the plural, nor with referring to the concept or idea associated with them in the singular:

    I was referring just to the affirmative sentences, which are all this thread is about. :tick:
    I was referring just to the affirmative sentences, which are the only thing this thread is about. :tick:
    I was referring just to the affirmative sentences, which is all this thread is about. :tick:
     
  33. kbck777 Senior Member

    American English
    the first two sound very akward though. It's a lot better just to use "is" "which are all this thread is about doesn't sound natural.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2010
  34. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    To me, the version with is is a little awkward, but natural enough and not wrong, and the version with are sounds perfectly natural.

    It really depends on how you look at it.

    There is a bit of the Neckar cube phenomenon in shifting one's interpretation of a phrase from singular to plural or vice versa.

    The same goes for the subtle differences between structures with any. To me, any book is fine when it means "whatever book, if there is one":

    Feel free to text me if any book here should appeal to you. :tick:
    Feel free to text me if you want any book (you see here). :tick:
     
  35. ander1234 Senior Member

    Bilbao
    Español
    I agree with kbck777 about which is all this thread is about.Let's change the order of the sentences:

    -which are all this thread is about:All this thread is about is the concept of affirmative sentences

    -which are the only thing this thread is about:I think this one is gramatically incorrect. Because we would say "the only thing this thread is about is affirmative sentences/the concept of affirmative sentence",so I think this sentence should read which is the only thing this thread is about

    -which are all this thread is about:All this thread is about are affirmative sentences.Gramatically correct,but I think it's more common to say the first one than this one,because although when we say which are all this thread is about,obviously we don't say the concept of,we are referring to it.


    I think a similar case could be the following one:

    -it's been 3 days since...........:with it we are referring to "the period of time",not to "the number of days"


    Please correct me if I am talking nonsense,I just want to make sure that I have understood this matter
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2010
  36. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Hi, Ander1234.

    Most of your English is fine, so I will not quote your whole post.
    I see this are as incorrect because all, the main word in the subject, means "the only thing". In English, the verb agrees only with the subject, not the complement (unless the subject is there).
    In "which is/are all this thread is about", the subject as I see it is not "all this thread is about" but which, and the source of confusion is whether which stands for something plural or for something singular. In fact, it can stand for either:

    ... the affirmative sentences, which are all this thread is about
    .
    The affirmative sentences are all this thread is about. :tick:

    I was referring to ..., which is all this thread is about.
    My referring to ... is all this thread is about. :tick:

    ... the affirmative sentences, which (matter) is all this thread is about.
    (The matter of) the affirmative sentences is all this thread is about. :tick:

    I consider this last version confusing as well as rather awkward without the part in parentheses.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  37. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    Hello

    Two rules have been presented. One says if any comes after a verb, the noun that follows must be plural. When it was pointed out that take any book violates such rule, a second rule was offered: in any command, any + singular can be used. You can do the same in any declarative statement. Let's test our original sentence against this rule, using logic:

    Any + singular can be used in any declarative sentence.
    Feel free to text me with any question is a declarative sentence.
    Therefore, any + singular can be used in feel free to text me with any question.

    This conclusion is supported by the following syntactic analysis (with apologies to grammarians for any errors, which I hope they will correct):
    To text requires a direct object to complete its meaning; question is the direct object, and therefore a noun phrase. Question is a count noun (one question, two questions, etc.). In a noun phrase, a single count noun must have a determiner (compare feel free to text questions with feel free to text question; the latter isn't grammatical). The determiner "any" can be used with single count and plural count nouns (any question, any questions). Therefore, feel free to text me with any question is a grammatical construction.

    Yet, feel free to text me any question sounds odd, at least to some people, probably, as I said in post #4, because the expectation is that one would have more than one question to ask; the singular any question is counterintuitive. "Any" has a strong quantitative aspect (referring to a quantity of questions). We can, however, attach a complement to any question and remove its quantitative nature:
    Feel free to text me with any question (that) you can think of
    Feel free to text me with any question of your choosing.

    The complements give any question a qualitative aspect: the quality (that) you can think of/of your choosing.

    Feel free to text me with any questions has an advantage: it doesn't require any complements to complete its meaning (we know any refers to quantity) and therefore is preferable.

    We may argue that feel free to text me with any question(s) is really a hypothetical sentence, with the meaning of if you have any question(s), feel free to text me. Garner's Modern American Usage says hypothetical any means "a (no matter which)" or "some," and gives as an example if any problem were to arise, what would it likely be?" If that's the case, then if any problem were to arise, feel free to text me works just as well.

    The same logic applies to if you have any book on English usage, please let me know. A preferance has been stated for if you have a book on English usage, but all we've done, syntactially, is replace one indefinite determiner (any) for another (a). However, the meaning changes slightly: a book is factual (one book), without any connotations. Any book suggests I don't care as to the nature of the "one" book; it could be old, new, thin, in two volumes, reader friendly, hard to follow, etc.) It is the same as the difference in Spanish between un libro and cualquier libro.

    (Any and all corrections are appreciated; we are all here to learn.)

    Cheers
     
  38. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Hi, SevenDays.

    I am impressed with your explanation. You have suggested some important points in very fluent English. I hope you don't mind my picking it apart. :)
    Actually "Feel free to text me ..." is a command/imperative, but I suspect the type or mode of a sentence is really not relevant. "You can feel free to text me ..." works just as well, as does "Am I free to text you with any question?", with stress on the word any.
    I think this is a very important point. We natives have a feel for these determiners, but they are difficult to explain.

    For example, English and Spanish both use articles and share the idea of definite vs. indefinite.
    Speakers of Russian are at a disadvantage because we seem to use these things for lots of different purposes and yet we seem unable to classify or enumerate them in a consistent manner. But the corresponds rather well with el/la/los/las, and a(n) with un/una, so they cause few problems between English and Spanish.

    But the question of when to use no article at all, or when to use some other determiner, such as any, is another matter altogether. We have as much trouble explaining these things to each other as we have trying to explain definiteness to a Russian.
    I think I see what you are saying, but I would have used different terminology. What the speaker expects is not quite the point, which seems to be something more like what the speaker wishes to communicate about definiteness, what the speaker cares about, or something similar. Rather than quality or complement(s), maybe the issue is qualification, such as with a "restrictive" modifier. In Spanish a definite article, indicating a fully qualified noun phrase, together with a subjunctive, indicating something not fully realized, seems to express the same idea as any, at least in certain contexts.
    Would you say "si tienen cualquier libro sobre ...", or would it be "si tienen algún libro sobre ..."? Is there a difference?

    To me any book suggests I don't care which one book, though I might indeed care about the nature of it.
    I hope this helps. Personally, I think we are getting closer to the answer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2010

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