While I'm aware of Should nouns after "any" be singular or plural? it does not quite answer my question. I have a simple sentence:

If any of the devices was not switched off, do something.

Is there supposed to be was or were? I was thinking about was since it could be rephrased as:

If any one of the devices was not switched off, do something.

But maybe that does not make any sense at all. Also, this is for a technical documentation where more formal language is preferred, not sure if that makes any difference.

  • 1
    I'd use "were." I'm thinking about how to explain why.
    – sumelic
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 12:42
  • I think it's kind of like the example given in your link "are any of the new videos available?"
    – sumelic
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 12:43

4 Answers 4


"Any" can be either singular or plural depending on the context.

"I will marry any girl who answers my email." There are many possible girls out there, but I am presumably only going to marry one of them.

"Any employees who work overtime will receive a bonus." Many employees might qualify.

In your example, the word "of" makes it so that it is not clear whether it is possible for many devices to be left on. That is, if you had said, "If any device ...", "device" is singular, so clearly a singular verb is called for. If you had said, "If any devices ...", then a plural verb would be called for.

The question then is, in context, is it only possible for one device to be left on, or could many devices be left on? I'd guess many, in which case the verb should be plural.


If any of the devices was not switched off, do something.

The use of the singular form of the verb "was" after "any of the devices" in the sentence presented is correct grammatically, but it's more formal.

In informal English, you usually use the plural form of the verb "were" as follows:

If any of the devices were not switched off, do something.

For detail: Please see the following link:



In your statement, 'If any one of the devices was not switched off, do something.', "ONE" is the subject and not ANY, your sentence was correct and the answer for your question was correct because "any" is subjunctive.

Other is the response to 'Any DEVICE..' Device is the subject, not any but the explanation itself is correct, "any" is subjunctive.


Any ONE is green.

One is green.

Any is green.

Any are green.



Your question about the sentence you gave as an example does not involve singular or plural. "If" makes the sentence conditional and therefore the subjunctive is used. There is no "was" in the subjunctive.

If I were, if he were, if they were, if any were.

All of these take the BE present tense subjunctive which is "were."

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