Could you give an explanation why ANY is not used like this:

1) Is there any car in the street? 2) Is there any book on the table?

I know that it's OK to use A for such sentences.

3) Is there a car in the street? 4) Is there a book on the table?

Any and A do mean ONE, but there must be some difference between them. What is it?

  • 1
    With the singular car or book, your expressions seem to ask for a relative clause: Is there any car on the street that has a broken back window? Is there any book on the table that you would like to take home with you? – ScotM Feb 26 '15 at 7:28
  • I think it's the same reason we say "There are no cars in the street" and not "There is no car in the street." – Peter Shor Feb 26 '15 at 11:55
  • @ScotM Would it be OK to say: Is there A car on the street that has a broken back window? If yes, what's the difference? – user1425 Aug 3 '15 at 7:18

I think we can't use Any like this because it's a determiner and a pronoun used to refer to indefinite or unknown quantities or an unlimited entity.

Referring to Any - English Grammar Today - Cambridge Dictionaries Online:

Any as a determiner has two forms: a strong form and a weak form. The forms have different meanings.

  • Weak form any: indefinite quantities
  • Strong form any meaning ‘it does not matter which’


We don’t use any with this meaning with singular countable nouns:

Have you got any Italian cookery books? (or … an Italian cookery book?)

Not: Have you got any Italian cookery book?

And referring to Some/Any from "A guide to learning English":

  • In general, any is used in negative sentences and questions:

I didn't get any nice presents for Christmas this year.

I looked in the cupboard but I couldn't find any biscuits.

I don't need any help.

She's so rude. No wonder she doesn't have any friends.

So in that type of questions the use of a is more appropriate than any because we're dealing here with singular countable nouns.

So the right statements are:

Is there a car in the street?


Are there any cars in the street?

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    Singular, countable: do you have any idea how difficult this is? – oerkelens Feb 26 '15 at 10:14
  • Yes I have an idea about how hard it is, but I just got it from here where it means that with any you have to use plural nouns as (books in the given example). And singular is also countable, that's why in mathematics counting begins from 1. – cнŝdk Feb 26 '15 at 10:49
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    Ah, you left out the part that mentions the use of any with singular nouns. But it is in your source :) – oerkelens Feb 26 '15 at 11:45
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    Are there any cars in the street? – Peter Shor Feb 26 '15 at 11:53
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    "Is there a red car in the street?" "No." "A blue car?" "No." "A green one?" "No." "Is there any car in the street?" "Yes, there's a yellow one." It's grammatical and idiomatic, but only used for emphasis. – Andrew Leach Feb 26 '15 at 11:55

I guess,by a you think there should be a book on the table and asking if it is still there? And by any you are asking if there is any book, means any book?.

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