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A: This animal is the largest of any mammal.

vs.

B: This animal is the largest of all mammals.

What are the subtle differences between A and B?

  • "largest of any mammal" is just wrong and doesn't make sense in the sentence. – Kris Sep 15 '14 at 6:14
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    @Kris No. There's nothing wrong with “largest of any mammal”. Your comment is incorrect. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '14 at 8:14
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    @Kris - Janus is right. Google the phrase "largest of any", and you'll encounter plenty of similar constructions. – Erik Kowal Sep 15 '14 at 11:41
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There is no difference. In sentence A, 'any' in effect means 'all', which makes sentences A and B equivalent in meaning.

  • One is plural and the other is singular. So I think they must have SUBTLE differences. – xmllmx Sep 15 '14 at 2:29
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    @xmllmx - That doesn't necessarily follow. With the construction you present in A, 'any' can only describe a singular noun; with the construction in B, 'all' can only describe a plural noun. But so what? What kind of subtle difference do you think there might be as a consequence? – Erik Kowal Sep 15 '14 at 2:37
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    +1 - @xmllmx - The construction of any is often used in informal contexts to mean "of all," as in He is the best known of any living playwright. (i.e. all.) No difference. Also, any can be plural. Check a dictionary. – anongoodnurse Sep 15 '14 at 3:34
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    @Kris, why the downvote? This answer is correct. Look up any in a dictionary or two, would you? Sheesh. – anongoodnurse Sep 15 '14 at 6:46

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