Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The context is as follows.

I say that X is true. The (dismissive) response I receive is "Anyone knows that". Is that a complete sentence? Yes, it is grammatical. Yes,it has some semblance of meaning.

Firstly: most people wouldn't see a problem — they would interpret anyone as everyone without thinking about it. But, as other discussions in this forum note, anyone and everyone are not precise synonyms.

Secondly: by inferring an implied set of people, the sentence "Anyone knows that" makes sense, e.g., "Anyone (you could possibly ask) knows that." I agree that most listeners/readers would make this inference without thinking about it.

But note that this interpretation of "Anyone knows that", is only an example. There are other possibilities for implied sets of people. Therefore, it seems to me that if the meaning of anyone is intended to mean all, the sentence is incomplete. What do you think?

share|improve this question
    
A sentence is not "incomplete" just because it doesn't necessarily mean what it's supposed to mean, or because it might be ambiguous. You agree that this sentence is grammatical and clear. "Anyone knows that" may not be idiomatic, but it's certainly not "incomplete". –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Nov 14 '12 at 14:46
    
Well, maybe it's only an elided version of "Anyone other than you would know that" grammatified to 3rd person singular because the modal has been left out. –  user21497 Nov 14 '12 at 15:18
    
add comment

1 Answer

The choice of anyone or everyone has no bearing on whether OP's sentence is "complete". The issue there is simply whether "that" refers back to some fact previously mentioned...

Speaker A: "Pigs can't fly!" Speaker B: "Everyone knows that." ("that" refers back to A's statement).

Speaker A: "Everyone knows that pigs can't fly!" ("that" refers forward, or to implied "the fact that").


Regarding the actual choice of indefinite pronoun (anybody, anyone, anything, each, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, nobody, none, one, several, some, somebody, someone, etc.) there's no special grammatical reason for the overwhelming preference...

"but everyone knows that..." (74700 instances in Google Books).

"but anyone knows that..." (430 instances)

To a large extent, it's just the established idiomatic usage. But the preference reverses with...

"everyone can do that" (9,690 instances)

"anyone can do that" (56,200 instances)

...which I attribute partly to the fact that everyone effectively means all people, collectively, whereas anyone means any one particular person chosen at random.

When the associated verb is can, the "deed" is a single action (not even actual, just potential), so it makes more sense to link it to one person (any one you care to pick). But if you know something, and others know the same thing, it's more emphatic to say that all people know it (all the time).

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.