I received an e-mail from a person thanking me for my help when I had traveled to Germany. I would like to start my answer with the following phrase. Is it correct?

I'm glad I was of any help!

I do not need to be extremely formal, that's why I put the exclamation mark.

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    We'd probably render this more idiomatically as "I'm glad I could help!" or "I'm glad I was able to help!". Thought, that said, there's nothing technically wrong with the way you originally phrased it. – Dan Bron Nov 25 '14 at 12:22
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    Or, alternatively, “I’m glad I could be of help”. The thing that feels most wrong in your sentence is any, which is usually restricted to questions, negatives, and cases where the emphasis is on “any[thing] at all, even minor [things]”. This isn’t really such a case, so it feels odd. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 25 '14 at 12:25
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    Glad to be of help. (I'm is assumed and can be safely omitted.) Alternatively: Glad I was of help. – Joe Dark Nov 25 '14 at 12:29
  • Yes, you can. However, your intention in using any is not clear. It gives the sentence a particular meaning. If that's what you are trying to say, then it's fine. Can you add more detail? – Kris Nov 25 '14 at 12:49
  • @Kris My intention is to express gratitude and surprise, for this was my first presentation in this particular scientific congress, and yet I was able to help people. Also, I'm from Brazil if that matters ;-) – Ian Liu Rodrigues Nov 25 '14 at 12:56

No, you can't say that, because in such contexts any is a negative polarity item.

1: I don't have any money
2: I have some money
3: ? I don't have some money (very unlikely)
4: * I have any money (not valid)

Thus OP could reasonably say "I'm sorry I was not of any help", with explicit negation. Or more subtly, by introducing a conditional element "I'm glad if I was of any help". Note that although the negative polarity doesn't seem to be so "absolute" in conditional contexts, many native speakers would say "I'm glad if I was of some help" in that last example.

  • It would further improve your very helpful answer if you added that NPIs also occur in interrogative information questions (as opposed to interrogatives functioning as requests, or suggestions): Do you have any ideas?, for example. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 14 '16 at 14:22
  • @Araucaria: I know I picked up the term negative polarity item from John Lawler here on ELU, but obviously when I posted this I couldn't [be bothered to] find a similar earlier question featuring his answer. One has been identified now though, so I'm for closevoting. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '16 at 15:04
  • ... Hold on a sec, there's till no reference with regard to NPIs about Questions. Interrogatives are an environment, like conditional antecedents, where we expect to find NPI's. So don't vote to close, but perhaps update your answer! Because the venerable Lawler's does not have this info in, and he's not generally up for updating his posts. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 14 '16 at 15:14
  • @Araucaria: But he does include a link to (his own) summary of Negative Polarity Items (illustrated with not) - complete with a list of Negative 'Triggers' (illustrated with any). If all similar NPI questions were closed in favour of that one we could treat it as the "canonical" question for the usage. I don't suppose John would object if someone cut & pasted the entirety of his linked page into an answer there (accredited, obviously) - but even if that might be a bit ott, it could still be useful to give a slightly shorter summary on that page. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '16 at 15:34
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    @Araucaria: John's answer on the question cited in dup vtc's above has only a single link, to his own 1-page doc entitled NPIs.pdf. The second of 4 types of "Negative Trigger", headed Questions (overt and embedded) gives three examples Did you see anybody? How does anybody stand this? I wonder how anybody stands this. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '16 at 15:48

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