Usage of "any" in positive sentences

  1. There is any amount of rice in Thailand.
  2. There came any number of children.
  3. There is any liquor in this restaurant.
  4. You can find any scholar in this city.
  5. There was any gangster in the teahouse.
    All the above sentences are quoted from a grammar book written by a Chinese teacher of English. Why use ANY in positive sentences? What does ANY mean in positive sentences?

Hi Sitifan,

My first intuition was ‘None of these sentences don’t sound right!’. But I’ve read them qite a few times now, and I’d say you could get away with some of them.

Here’s the way I read the sentences.

  1. There is an infinite amount of rice in Thailand.
  2. not really possible, you’d have to add ‘you can think of’
  3. There is any type of liquor in this restaurant.
  4. You can find any kind of scholar in this city.
  5. Odd, but could mean There was any type of gangster (you could think of) in the tea house.

An example for a positive statement for ‘any’ in a positive statement could be ‘there is hardly any bread left’, but even here the inventory value is not very positive :smiley:

BTW, what is the chapter about?

Hi Sitifan

Your sentences do tend to sound odd without any context, some more so than others.

The word “any” can be used simply to refer to an unspecified number or amount. It can mean one, some, every, all/none.

The expression “any number of” basically means “some” or “various”. I’d say it is generally used to mean “more than only a few”, and tends to suggest “too many to specify each of them individually”. In other words, if it were just a couple, it would be easy to specify the exact number or easy to specifiy each of them individually.

[color=blue]A: How can I save money?
B: There are any number of ways to save money. For example, you could do X or Y. However there are lots of other possibilities.

Your first sentence strikes me as odd, but I assume the author might mean that the amount is so large that it cannot be measured.

I disagree with Ralf about sentence 2. To me, that sentence suggests “a lot of children”, and it also strikes me as literary.

If you look at the first sentence of this post, you will see that I wrote “without any context”. That suggests “none at all” ==> with no context at all.

The word “any” can be used in affirmative sentences to indicate that there is no restriction on “which particular one” – in other words, “no matter which one”. This obviously also has a sense similar to “all”:

[color=blue]C: What is the definition of giant?
D: You can find the definition in any English dictionary.

In other words, no matter which English dictionary you look in, you will find a definition for the word giant ==> Every English dictionary has a definition for the word giant. ==> All English dictionaries have a definition for the word giant.

In your sentences 3, 4, and 5, I assume the author intended the meaning to be “any type of liquor/scholar/gangster” (as Ralf also mentioned). In other words, there is no restriction on the type of liquor/scholar/gangster. All types are included. However, I would add that especially sentences 4 and 5 would sound much more natural to me if something such as “type of”, “kind of”, or “sort of” were added.

Without some sort of limitation on the word “scholar” in sentence 4, for example, saying “any scholar” seems to include all of the scholars in the world, and that would suggest that there are no scholars anywhere else – this city has all of the scholars in the whole world. :shock: That is probably not what the author intended to say.

This is a quote by a famous artist, poet and part-time professional footballer.

“We have got players in our team that can play in any game of football.”
[size=75]Barcelona, 6 September 2008, David Beckham[/size]

“…and leave it much the same as they found it.”