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I came across this video in which the speaker can't remember any of the names of the other people in the room, so she says " I can't remember anyone's names".

shouldn't she have said "I can't remember anyone's name", since anyone is singular?

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    Yes, she's not a native speaker. She's near-native, but not quite native. "... anyone's name" is correct in that context. "... anyone's names" would be correct if everyone had several names that she was trying to remember
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 15:56
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    The name of a person. The name of anyone=anyone's name. Possessive. But "the names of anyone" or "anyone's names" has to refer to one person having more than one name and not several people having names.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 18:08

1 Answer 1

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Yes, "anyone" is singular. However, the meaning of "name" is a bit ambiguous. Assuming that each person has one name, you're correct; it should be "name". However, if each person has multiple names (for example, a first name and a last name), then "names" would be fine.

This involves the "distributive" singular, which you can read about elsewhere on this site, e.g. Two questions about this sentence: 1. Why not "hearts"? 2. Which aforementioned action does "as Oliver did" refer to? .

Finally, keep in mind that I'm talking about the formal rule that requires number agreement. In spoken English (and to a lesser extent in written English), people violate this rule quite frequently.

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  • Thank you for your response. I agree with your analysis from a theoretical perspective, but in practice I don’t thing anyone would say ‘names’ even if they forgot both the first and last name of a person. For example, if I forgot someone’s first and last name, I would just say ‘I forgot your name(not names)’.
    – Alon
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 17:59
  • @Alon I agree. It would most likely happen if the person was trying to compile a list of all of the first, middle, and last names. Or during a game in which each person played a character (Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, etc.) giving each player two names. Or perhaps some other scenario. Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 18:21

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