Anyone vs. Any One: How to Choose the Right Word

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The indefinite pronoun "anyone"—used as a single word—refers to any person at all, but not to any particular individual. "Any one"—used as two words—is an adjective phrase that refers to any single member of a group of either people or things. "Any one" is commonly followed by the preposition "of."

A similar distinction applies to "anybody" vs. "any body" as well as "nobody" and "no body." The omission or inclusion of the space between the two words makes a difference. Explanations, examples, and usage notes show when to use the terms and how to use them correctly.

How to Use Anyone

To use "anyone" correctly, it's important to understand that an indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to an unspecified or unidentified person or thing. It's vague rather than specific, and it doesn't have an antecedent. So, "anyone" refers to any person, but no person in particular. Take the example:

  • "Did anyone of you see a lost boy?" the frantic mother asked.

In this example, a mother is searching for her child, who likely became lost or separated from her in a public place, such as a department store. She is not concerned who responds; she would be grateful if "anyone" at all, or "anybody" at all, could recall spotting the missing child. It does not matter who speaks up; "anyone" will do.

How to Use Any One

By contrast, "any one" refers to any single, specific person, such as:

  • "Any one" of you in my class may choose "any one" of the books to read.

In this example, the first use of "any one" refers to any single person in the class. In the second use, "any one" refers to any specific book.

Examples

Sample sentences can illustrate when to use "anyone" or "any one." One such sentence might read:

  • When I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I could not decide on "any one" painting that was my favorite.

In this example, the speaker is stating that he is unable to pick any single painting in the world-famous museum that was his favorite. A sentence using "anyone" as a single word could ask:

  • Does "anyone" of you have an opinion as to which painting in the Rijksmuseum is the best? After all, many experts say that Rembrandt van Rijn's work "Night Watch" is the best painting at the museum.

In this sentence, the speaker—perhaps a tour guide leading a large group—is asking if any person at all in the group (it does not matter who) has an opinion as to the best painting. Another example that uses both terms could read:

  • It does not seem like "anyone" in the stadium saw the play. Did "any one" of you see it?

In the first use, the speaker is commenting that it is unlikely that any person at all in the stadium (it does not matter who) saw the play. In other words, nobody saw it. In the second sentence of this example, the speaker is likely addressing a smaller group of people, perhaps in a press box or luxury box, and asking if any single person saw it. The implication, here, is that the speaker would like that specific individual to relate to him what happened on that particular play. By contrast, you could say:

  • He never raised a hand to "any one" of his children.

In this case, the father never hit or spanked any single, or individual, one of his children.

How to Remember the Difference

When trying to distinguish between "anyone" and "any one," simply swap them with a similar word, such as "anybody" vs. "anybody" or even antonyms, such as "nobody" vs. "no body." The difference between these words is the same grammatically as the distinction between "anyone" and "any one." So, if you were to say:

  • Does "anyone" know who first said, "You can't trust anybody over 30?"

Both, "anyone" and "anybody" mean the same thing here—"anyone" and "anybody" both refer to any person in general, but not a specific person. If you swap them, the sentence still makes sense:

  • Does "anybody" know who first said, "You can't trust anyone over 30?"

By contrast, if you say:

  • If "any one" of the 25 barons should die, the remaining barons shall choose a replacement.

Clearly, in this sentence, "any one" refers to any specific, or particular, baron who might die. Replace "any one" with its antonym, such as "no one," and you can still craft a sentence that makes sense:

  • If "no one" of the barons dies this year, the remaining barons won't need to meet to choose a replacement.

In this case, if "no one," individual baron dies, the other barons won't have to select a replacement, but if "any one" of them dies (any single baron), all the other barons will have to meet to make that difficult choice.

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