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I have been going through several legal documents lately and have realised that a lot of them use the fragment "any or any" within some sentences.

Failing to place a guard or fence or warning signs so as to give any or any adequate warning it was in a dangerous condition and a trap to persons lawfully using the same

Any ideas what purpose "any or any" serves here? I mean, when one uses the word "any" that doesn't need to subsequently be qualified as it is all-encompassing; well, at least that's what I thought.

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If I'm interpreting it correctly, what it's saying is that failing to give any (warning) or any adequate warning... Parsing it that way clarifies that there is considered to be a difference between any warning and any adequate warning, legally. Unfortunately, the way the your question is worded, it's not really a question. You may consider rewording the heading. – Kristina Lopez May 22 '13 at 17:49
up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you analyze the sentence and turn it into the lexical units that it consists of, you get something like this:

Failing to place a guard
or a fence
or warning signs
so as to give
any warning
or any adequate warning
that it
in a dangerous condition
and a trap
to persons
who were lawfully using the same [= it]

The word warning is elided from the sentence you quoted. Perhaps the defendant will claim that a warning was given. The plaintiff's complaint or the law (I don't know which has been quoted here) says that even if a warning was given, it did not meet the legal requirements if it was not an adequate warning. This means that any or any is not a complete phrase.

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Right, so it's a bit of a tautology (in everyday English) but because of how tightly-sealed legalities must be, the seemingly redundant repetition merely serves to cover all bases? – James Stott May 22 '13 at 8:32
And with the "any [warning] or any adequate warning" could you say that modifiers are subject to the distributive property, such that (modifier1 + modifier2) (modified) = (modifier1 + modified) + (modifier2 + modified)? – James Stott May 22 '13 at 8:34
@JamesS: Yes. Just as Andrew Leach's answer points out. Lawyers are nitpickers & pettifoggers. They'll use any excuse to wriggle their clients out of being liable for a tort. Yes to your second comment as well. English works that way: we often drop what we consider to be unnecessary (optional) words. – user21497 May 22 '13 at 8:36
Conjunction Reduction at work again! – John Lawler May 22 '13 at 14:31

It's not "any or any", it's "any or any adequate", that is

... so as to give any warning or any adequate warning it was ...

One might think that the "any warning" was superfluous, because giving no warning at all is a failure to give an adequate warning, but lawyers like to cover all bases.

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