1

In Oxford dictionary the definition of a pronoun is as below:

Pronouns are used in place of a noun that has already been mentioned or that is already known, often to avoid repeating the noun.

Thus, based on the frequent pronouns, i.e., she, her, ..., I conclude that any as a pronoun cannot be both plural and singular at the same time. With this regard, which one is correct in below imaginary conversation?

A: I need some screws.

B: Is there any in your pocket? or Are there any in your pocket?


If I am wrong, I will be happy to know your correction(s).

  • 2
    Any can be used with a singular mass noun, or pluralized count noun. Thus, Are there any apples in this fruit basket? (whole fruits) and Is there any apple in this fruit cocktail?* (pieces of apple, some apple). – FumbleFingers Jun 12 '16 at 17:20
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    @FumbleFingers I think Any in your examples are acting as a determiner not a pronoun. – Cardinal Jun 12 '16 at 18:41
3

The "any" in this case is referring to the screws, a plural noun, so it is plural.

Are there any (screws) in your pocket?

but if it refers to a singular uncountable/mass noun, it is singular:

Is there any (milk/food/bread/whatever) left?

Off-topic: if you are asking for one screw (or heck, an amount of a countable noun) in someone else's possession, I'd usually use

Do you have any screws in your pocket?

And when you refer to an indefinite amount of countable things in English, you usually say it with the plural of the things.

Were there any survivors?

Do you get good grades?

I like laptops that are cheap but don't break easily.

Moshing was banned because some obnoxious guests brought weapons inside.

  • Therefore, depending on the context, any can be both. It is interesting since I thought that pronouns can be either plural or singular, but not the both. – Cardinal Jun 12 '16 at 15:10
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    Yes, but if the original statement was I need a screw, one would rarely say Is there any in your pocket? but Is there one in your pocket? – Alan Carmack Jun 12 '16 at 15:13
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    @Cardinal Milk, food, water are all mass nouns. If we are asking about a count noun we'd more likely ask Is there one in your pocket?, Is there one on the floor? – Alan Carmack Jun 12 '16 at 15:16
  • @AlanCarmack Many thanks. I was reviewing my grammar book and my notes, I came across with this question. I had known that any can also be used with countable singular nouns as a determiner, but in the case of being a pronoun, I was dubious. That is great. – Cardinal Jun 12 '16 at 15:20
  • @Nihilist => It seems I was not completely successful to from a good imaginary scenario. I mean, I didn't ask how to say "do you have something"!. I was asking about the grammars behind the any as a pronoun. BTW, It is cool – Cardinal Jun 12 '16 at 15:34

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