I have a question regarding 'any' as 'it's not important which one'.

While i can say:

I can recognise any mushroom in the forest


I can heal any dog you bring me (a vet!)
I can drive any car

It just doesn't seem to work with the verb 'know' e.g.:

I know any kid in the school.
I know any colour on the pantone.

It's driving me crazy... do you know why? And if so would you be so kind as to tell me?

  • 2
    And seeing i in lowercase is driving me crazy. Thanks.
    – Lambie
    Dec 13, 2017 at 20:07
  • Could you explain why you feel the verb "to know" is different from "to recognize"? Both are similar, internal actions without physical movement.
    – Andrew
    Dec 13, 2017 at 21:40

3 Answers 3


To this US English speaker, it's not as much about the verb "know" but about the meaning of the noun phrase.

For example, in your first sentence, "I can recognize any mushroom in the forest", we're referring to a hypothetical individual mushroom that you might encounter.

But in "I know any kid in the school" you don't actually know hypothetical individual kids, you know every kid in the school.


The word any is used before countable and uncountable nouns. it is usually used in negative sentences. We tend to use some with positive sentences.

E.g. I don't know any kids in the school.= negative because it contains does not

E.g. I know some kids in the school (I go to).= a positive sentence.

We can also use any when asking questions.

E.g. Do you know any good places to eat?.

Of course, there are many uses of the word any but I hope this helps for now. As the other folks have said try to capitalize your I when used in it the first person singular.

  • I simply disagree with this answer. ""I can drive any car" or "I am a better tennis player than any other human being" are completely idiomatic (although the last example is a laughable lie). It is true that "any" is frequently used in negative constructions, but there are frequent occurrences of "any" in positive constructions, and the OP provides examples. This answer, however, might be helpful if suitably revised because "any" is indeed highly used in negative assertions. Consequently, I shall not down- vote it because it has merit despite its current flaws. Dec 14, 2017 at 2:39

I agree with you that "I know any kid in the school" sounds quite odd. I do not believe, however, that the oddity derives from the verb "know." Indeed, "I recognize any mushroom in the forest" sounds odd to me as well.

I think the issue comes from the meaning of "any." According to Merriam-Webster, "any" in the sense of a determiner means "one or some ... of a number of things" or else "whichever of a specified class may be chosen."

Now in the sentence, "I know any kid in the school," the second meaning works only if you know every kid in the school, in which case you must know more than just some of them. Under that supposition, it is a lot clearer and so more idiomatic to say "I know every kid in the school" or "I know all the kids in the school." Moreover, if the school is small enough, it is credible that you may know them all.

The examples in which the use of "any" do not sound odd to me include "can." Yes, the sentence "I can drive any car" logically implies the sentence "I can drive every car existing on earth," but it is not seriously contemplated that you will ever have the opportunity to do so. What is really being contemplated is that you can drive that relatively small number of cars that you have an opportunity to drive.

In short, when "any" necessarily implies "all" and "every" and "all" is plausible in practice, "any" will not be idiomatic. It is when "all" is not plausible in practice, that "any" becomes an idiomatic choice.

I must admit that I have not found a supporting source for this explanation of what your own ear has already told you (though I shall look at Fowler when I get home). Instead, I have relied on my own sense of which word I would employ in different circumstances.

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