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I'm just wondering whether both sentences would be correct:

  • I look into the eyes of anyone who looks at me.

  • I look into the eyes of everyone who looks at me.

Would it be correct to assume that when I used anyone in that way it would mean I am questioning whether anyone looks at me. However when using everyone I'm just stating the fact that I look into everyone's eyes.

If both are correct I really like the distinction. Not possible in many other languages.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Both of them are correct. But your interpretation of "anyone" is off-target.

This reminds me of a similar ESL exercise on the difference between and "every" and "any":

A: What would you like to order?

B: Everything.

  • or -

B: Anything.

As you can see from the example above, "everything" would mean "each and every" item on the menu and would be inappropriate in the situation.

In the same way, "looking into the eyes of EVERYone who looks at me" means that ALL offenders would suffer my stare.


On the other hand, "anything" in the example above means only one dish, it doesn't matter which one.

So "looking into the eyes of ANYone who looks at me" isn't really emphasizing quantity (or uncertainty, as you have guessed). Instead, it actually means "I DON'T CARE who they are, whether they're the President or Oprah, I just stare right back."

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I don't see that distinction between the two sentences.

The second one is more all-inclusive; it says you will always stare back when someone looks at you, looking that person in the eyes. The first one is more like, "I'll stare back at the person, no matter who it is."

I also think the first one sounds more natural with I'll look instead of I look:

  • I'll look into the eyes of anyone who looks at me.

P.S. For more help, see J D OConal's answer to this related question.

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Sure, I'll sounds nicer. The same post you are referring to I like what btonissen suggests. Everyone means each one in a set, anyone means literally anyone - no matter who and what set. So I like what you said "no matter who it is". I see some slight distinction between the two. –  Dennis G Jun 29 '12 at 9:59

Using anyone in "I look into the eyes of anyone who looks at me" does not mean or imply that you are questioning whether anyone looks at you. (Note, to "question whether anyone looks at you" means to ask if anybody looks at you. It doesn't mean you are asking questions of those who look at you.) The sense of either example is context dependent, but this first example might be used to imply (among other possibilities) the following.

  • that you are aware of people around you and take an interest in them
  • that you want to challenge the people you meet
  • that you are looking for some something in the people you meet, perhaps a spark of recognition, perhaps concern, acceptance, rejection.

The second example, "I look into the eyes of everyone who looks at me", is grotesque if taken literally – it provokes images of you with a giant opthalmoscope looking into the eyeballs of a crowd of people all at once – but in the right context and with looked in place of looks might give a more delicate image, of introspectively recalling the faces and emotions of people you've recently seen.

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