7

Consider:

The system is deterministic if any two runs produce the same result.

Can I say every instead of any in every such sentence?

9
  • Which else kinds of equivalence do we have?
    – Val
    Jul 10, 2014 at 16:42
  • 4
    Those two sentences are grammatically equivalent, but semantically and logically very different. Any two runs means that out of however many runs were done in total, any randomly chosen pair of runs (say, run number 112 and run number 2,058) should produce the same result. Every two runs means either every second run (numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, etc.), or every single pair of runs. So yes, you can say both—but they mean quite different things. Jul 10, 2014 at 16:44
  • 1
    This question is actually a logic / statistics / systems / mathematics question and not an english question. Jul 10, 2014 at 16:46
  • @AhmedMasud If I said any lion is a cat you would reject the question as "zoological rather than english". You should alwayws find a reason to reject a question and with some disregard it is not difficult.
    – Val
    Jul 10, 2014 at 17:28
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I guess that Arnold is a father is grammatically equivalent to Bookshelf was empty but that raises a question what is the purpose to ask for grammatical equivalence. Anyway, what is every single pair and how is it (logically/semantically) different from any random pair? I read a book on semantics in logic (logic = grammatics + semantics and these 3 things are different, so that logic is not semantics) and it says that you can prove things (semantically) different by counterexample. Can you demonstrate one which distinguishes any random pair from every single pair?
    – Val
    Jul 10, 2014 at 17:45

3 Answers 3

5

Any is polysemous.

AHD:

any [quantifier]

  1. One, some, every, or all without specification

choosing examples:

Are there any messages for me?

[meaning one or some]

Any child would love that.

[meaning every]

But

The system is deterministic if any two runs produce the same result.

is itself an example of a scope ambiguity:

Do we mean

The system is deterministic if there have been / are any two runs producing the same result.

or

The system is deterministic if all the possible selected pairs of runs produce the same result. (when it would be clearer just to say The system is deterministic if all runs produce the same result).

Perhaps a clearer illustration of this ambiguity is:

If any child can afford to come [we'll ask their parents to contribute to the new library].

If any child can afford to come [we'll need two coaches].

3
  • With the child sentences, your second option doesn't seem right to me. It'd be "If every child can afford to come we'll need two coaches". I think perhaps "If any child can afford to come then the trip will go ahead" might work better.
    – Rupe
    Jul 10, 2014 at 20:14
  • The sentence works; in speech, 'any' would be stressed. From the internet: Search engine results pages (SERPS) would be a pretty horrible collection if any lazy Tom, Dick or Harry could come along and get a place An alternative is to use 'just any' (or sometimes 'any old') which disambiguates: Imagine if just any two animals could mate with each other . [internet] Jul 10, 2014 at 20:40
  • I like "just any" and "any old" as ways of clarifying things. In the children example "any one" can disambiguate in another direction (towards my version above). You can do something similar in the original with "...if any one pair of runs produce the same results".
    – Rupe
    Jul 10, 2014 at 21:10
3

Any thing means considering one of the things.

Every thing is considering all the things individually.

Mostly they can be used interchangeably but "any" usually means negatively. For example:

-- You can use every thing that you have.

-- You cannot use any thing!

1

Any stands for any random pick, while every stands for every single.

Grammatically, these are different phrases, but, if we think carefully, they mean the same thing. So, you can use both equivalently. If they were not, there would exist a counterexample. There must be one since there are people in the question’s comments who oppose my claim. But they fail to provide the counterexample needed to support that position.

2
  • 1
    You don't seem to be considering that 'any two runs' producing the same result can also mean runs 22 and 47 say, where all the rest give different results, showing that the equivalence of results 22 and 47 was a fluke. 'Every two runs' here would be taken to have the alternative sense that Janus cites. This is the way English works – not as logically as some might like. 'The system is deterministic if all runs produce the same result.' sounds more sensible to me, unless I'm misinterpreting. Jul 10, 2014 at 18:56
  • That's one sense of any, what Vendler 1967 calls "free-choice any"; there is also Negative Polarity any, (as in I didn't see any apples) which is much more frequent. Jul 10, 2014 at 20:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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