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This is not a duplicate of "anymore" vs. "any more". I made sure. In that case, the two terms being compared were noun phrase (any more) vs. adverb (anymore). In this case, the two are both noun terms. I know which is more often used, but is "any thing" incorrect?

The question was raised in my mind when I saw "any thing" on a post, and wondered whether to edit it to "anything".

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

You're absolutely right, there are some instances of "any more" in which "anymore" would be inappropriate - but to the best of my knowledge "anything" can correctly replace "any thing" in any circumstances.

That's not to say that "any thing" is wrong and should be edited to "anything" though. "Anything" is certainly more common but "any thing" is not incorrect, so I would still urge caution in editing someone else's post for something so trivial.

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Here's an NGram showing that the two-word form has all but died out following a big switchover in the mid-1800s. It's still valid, but it has a definitely archaic overtones. Though I agree it would be pedantic to edit a post just for that. –  FumbleFingers Jul 4 '11 at 13:28
    
What about Neil's example below? IMHO neither is is more 'generally' applicable than the other, from the example... or how about: "I eat anything." versus "I eat any thing."? The latter seems a little funny, considering that it emphasizes that it eats any thing, even if it's not edible. –  Mehrdad Mar 29 '12 at 9:09
    
@Mehrdad A person in this context is included as a thing. If I had seen someone in the garden and was asked "did you see anything in the garden", my answer would be yes (because they're included in "anything") - I wouldn't say "no, I saw a person". So the "or person" in Neil's example is redundant. –  Waggers Apr 13 '12 at 13:35
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I think I would find myself intuitively using "any thing" on those rare occasions that "thing" needed to be a 'noun in its own right', and contrast with other nouns. For example:

"Any thing or person seen in the garden...."

"*Anything or person seen..."

I didn't see any 'thing' as such, but rather a group of things.

Other than cases such as these, I don't think there's much in it. In many cases where you could argue that what is meant is strictly a 'thing' (and where you could replace "any( )thing" with "a single thing"), replacing "any thing" with "anything" doesn't really alter the meaning:

I don't believe anything/any thing/a single thing you say.

probably since in cases such as this, 'thing' doesn't contrast with another noun.

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+1 totally agree! –  Mehrdad Mar 29 '12 at 9:10
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