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I am not sure what the difference between 'a' or 'any' is in the following sentences. Which one of the following sentences is the most grammatically correct?

Please select a number less than 1,000.

Please select any number less than 1,000.

Thanks for your help.

  • Neither is more or any less grammatical than the other. They have slightly different nuances. – curiousdannii Aug 20 '14 at 9:27
  • Better not to mix any with a condition like "less than 1,000" because it will cause the reader to go back and revise his understanding of the foregoing any. It's not ungrammatical or poor style, but readers would not like it. – Kris Aug 20 '14 at 11:53
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They're both grammatically correct, but mean slightly different things.

Please select a number

places the emphasis on the fact that you're only selecting one number.

Please select any number

instead emphasises that it doesn't matter which number is picked.

  • I don't quite understand the difference between your definitions. Sorry if I am being dumb :P – user3509923 Aug 20 '14 at 8:31
  • It's a matter of emphasis rather than meaning. What's the context? If it were, say, a form, I'd use "please select a number" because it's a clearer instruction to emphasise how many numbers you should pick; but either would do fine. – Binney Aug 20 '14 at 8:38
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    There's virtually no difference. "Pick a card, any card" is the traditional instruction from a magician performing card tricks. The implication is that you can choose any card you want, of your own free will, and he will still be able to divine which it is for the purposes of the trick. – Mynamite Aug 20 '14 at 8:39
  • It's tempting to pick pi squared minus one. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 20 '14 at 8:50

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