The recipe uses a large amount of pepper, and not just any pepper, but a special blend imported from India. (Merriam-Webster’s)

You have to be a member to go there. They won't let just any person in. (Merriam-Webster’s)

We don’t publish just any letters: we reject more than half of those submitted. (CGEL,p.383)

When we use free choice any in negative contexts, do we have to add an intensifier, just? From my mother tongue’s aspect, logically, it seems to be added to the free choice any. But the grammar book doesn’t say about that. Whereas the dictionary’s both online and its Learner’s paper book has bold characters for these two words - just any’s, seemingly saying they are a mate. Without any, don’t we use the expression, or does the word, just, only clarify the speaker’s intention of negating the free choice?

1 Answer 1


Generally, you need to include just in this construction. For instance, in two of your examples, removing just changes the meaning:

They won't let any person in
We don’t publish any letters

Without just, these statements indicate that nothing whatsoever is permitted; no people are let in and no letters are published. If you put the surrounding context back in, the meaning becomes evident, but then there's a semantic mismatch and confusing language.

Ellipting just works better in the pepper example, because the construction is [X], and not any [X] but [specific X]. The context before and after (mostly after; but does the heavy lifting here) not any makes it obvious there's an exception to the rule of not any pepper, so it's not nonsensical like the other two. However, it still reads better with the intensifier, because just helps emphasize how special and important the Indian pepper is, which is the purpose of this phrasing.

An equivalent phrase for just any is any old. This is idiomatic, with old meaning, roughly, generic, and not aged. This is informal, and as with just any, removing old changes it into a blanket statement.

  • 1
    I'll say that in spoken English, you can probably elide the just - I'd expect a medium-falling intonation on the any would connote the same meaning.
    – jimsug
    Jun 11, 2014 at 8:10

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