"Any" and the "plural" of "countable" nouns

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Xavier da Silva, Sep 2, 2010.

  1. Xavier da Silva Senior Member

    Portuguese - Brazil
    Hello everyone,

    I've just seen here on the forum a thread about "any + singular/plural nouns", which helped me to ask a more precise and useful question.Please, take a look at the sentences below:

    a.Did you see any cell phones there?/Did you see any cell phone there?
    b.I don't have any passwords./I don't have any password.

    -->I read on the thread I found that the plural form is idiomatically preferable when the noun is countable.

    My question is:Why is it preferable and what is the difference between the "any + plural noun" and "any + singular noun" when it is countable(noun)?

    Thank you in advance!
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Well, although 'any' + singular is possible, normally we would use 'a' if we were thinking of singular: Did you see a phone there? I haven't got a password. There is no true plural of 'a', but 'some'/'any' often function like its plural. If you're asking about any passwords or phones, you're probably thinking of the possibility that there are multiple passwords and phones.
  3. MilkyBarKid Senior Member

    British English
    ...the plural form is idiomatically preferable when the noun is countable.

    That doesn't make sense.

    There is ONE password (to log into a site, say,) necessary, so it would be
    "I don't have a password."

    With the fact that nowadays most people have a cell phone/mobile (UK), a person would ask, "Did you see any cell phones there?"

    In the days when they were new on the market, and very few people owned one, perhaps the singular would have been used.
  4. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I think the examples might not have been the most effective. Let's take something that is often spoken of in groups:

    Do you have any cherries/grapes? Do you have any cherry/grape?

    There is quite a difference for me between these two. The first one describes the fruit. The second one describes the flavor or something that includes the flavor as a part of it, as in:

    A: "We have cheese danishes and chocolate danishes." (pastries)
    B: "Neither one of those sounds good. Do you have any cherry?"

    If I am in a supermarket I say: "Do you have any cherries this week?"
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  5. Xavier da Silva Senior Member

    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thank you very much for your time!
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I don't know if this should have been a new thread: the previous one referred to in the first message already deals with this general topic, and we are just going to say the same things again here. I.e., that any + singular count noun is perfectly acceptable in many contexts, but in those contexts it doesn't just mean a, but "any old", "any whatsoever, any at all", "the least hint of a", etc.
  7. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    The grapes and cherries might not be the best examples, either. Yours were nouns that were not also adjectives.

    Taking the cellphone example, let's say I walk into a store where I expect there to be cellphones:

    A: "I'd like to look at your selection of cellphones."
    B: "We don't carry cellphones."
    A: "You're kidding! You don't have any cellphones?"
    B: "No. Sorry."

    I couldn't say, "You don't have any cellphone?" I could say, "You don't have a single cellphone?" The tricky bit is explaining why. I'm afraid I don't have a good explanation.

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