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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.

  1. Is there a car in the street?
  2. Is there a book on the table?

Both any and a do mean “one”, but there must be some difference between them. What is it?

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    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
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 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." Commented Feb 26, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 7:18

2 Answers 2

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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’

Warning:

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?

or

Are there any cars in the street?

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    Singular, countable: do you have any idea how difficult this is?
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 10:14
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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
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 11:45
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    Are there any cars in the street? Commented Feb 26, 2015 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
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 11:55
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    Well, does it mean that "Do you have any apple?" can work? Do you have a green apple? - No. Red? - No. - Any apple? - No.
    – user1425
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 18:13
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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?

No explanation is required at all because "ANY" is used exactly like that.

A: "Pass me my dictionary; it's on the table."

B: "There's no dictionary on the table."

A: "There has to be! I put it there."

B: "There's no dictionary."

A: "Damn! Is there any book on the table?"

B: "Yes, there is a copy of "Little Women".

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