In negative sentences, what is the difference between the forms "don't have + noun" and "don't have any + noun"?

Here are two couples of examples:

(With countable nouns)

  1. I don’t have books
  2. I don’t have any books

(With uncountable nouns)

  1. I don’t have sugar
  2. I don’t have any sugar

Is one of each pair correct and not the other? Or is Is one of each pair idiomatic and not the other?
In case both forms are correct, when should I use one? And when should I use the other?

1 Answer 1


They're both fine. In such contexts, any is usually just an optional "intensifier" - which can be further emphasized by giving the word extra stress...

1: Will you please stop asking to borrow a few pounds? I already told you, I don't have any money!

But there can be another significant difference in meaning. Consider...

2: I don't have alcohol in my house
3: I don't have any alcohol in my house
4: I have no alcohol in my house

As a native speaker, I'd normally understand #2 as implying I don't allow alcohol in my house (so don't try to bring any in), but I wouldn't normally distinguish between #3 and #4. Mostly, they'd probably just mean If we want to continue drinking at my house, we'd better buy some alcohol to take back, because I haven't got any.

It's just possible I might prefer #4 (without with intensifying any) if I knew I had some long-ignored sickly liqueur at the back of the drinks cabinet. But probably not - native speakers aren't usually that precise about how we express the negative in such contexts.

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