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I'd like to know whether "the" or "any" should be used in the following:

The porky fellow came into the cubicle, scarcely leaving me any/the room in which I was standing.

I'd appreciate your help.

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  • But I saw the following sentence from Frankenstein: "Last Monday (July 31st), we were nearly surrounded by ice, which closed in the ship on all sides, scarcely leaving her the sea-room in which she floated. " – Apollyon Jun 14 '20 at 7:12
  • I'm curious about whether her use of "the" is natural. – Apollyon Jun 14 '20 at 7:44
  • Any room would work on its own. The room needs the rest of the phrase to explain what room (space) you are referring to. – Kate Bunting Jun 14 '20 at 8:23
  • How about "The porky fellow came into the cubicle, scarcely leaving me any/the room to stand"? – Apollyon Jun 14 '20 at 8:34
  • The same applies, of course. I have just told you that scarcely leaving me any room doesn't need anything more. – Kate Bunting Jun 14 '20 at 8:42
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You're not likely to find a single definitive answer to your question. 

The porky fellow came into the cubicle, scarcely leaving me the room in which I was standing. 
The porky fellow came into the cubicle, scarcely leaving me any room in which to stand. 

These are the choices that I find natural.  The question comes down to how defining the following restrictive modifier happens to be. 

I find the phrasing "in which I was standing" to be sufficiently defining.  It has a complete clause, with a tense and a mode.  It's definitive because it is indicative.  That room, that amount of space, is fixed in time and place.  In this context, it would be hard to be more definitive than that.  Here, "the" is the natural choice. 

The phrasing "in which to stand" is more open to interpretation.  It lacks tense and mode.  It expresses something like purpose or intention.  It's abstract and hypothetical, rather than concrete and indicative.

Being more open to interpretation, "in which to stand" may as well be sufficiently defining.  I find "any room in which to stand" to be more natural in my idiolect, and yet I find "the room in which to stand" to also be natural enough.  It's not my first choice, but it doesn't sound wrong.

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We can use both noun phrases with the prepostional phrase in which I was standing. There is just a little difference in meaning between them. The indefinite determiner any tells us that the speaker occupies some amount of space without informing how large or small it is really. The prepositional phrase in which I was standing modifies the noun phrase any space, showing what size this space is actually.

The second example is the noun phrase the space, which having the definite article. The definite article just informs us that some phrase, which defines the noun space, follows after the noun . It is the prepositional phrase in which I was standing that informs us what this space is exactly.

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