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Recently I've found myself wondering if the sentence "Let's see if it's any plausible." is correct. I've asked a few native speakers and received an array of opinions ranging from 'absolute trash' to 'perfect usage', but nobody was able to give me definitive answer other than "It doesn't sound just right.". The way I see it "Let's see if it's any plausible." means as much as "Let's see if it's plausible at all.", which doesn't look incorrect, though. How wrong am I? I'd appreciate your view on the matter.

  • You used tags for BE or AE does that mean you want two answers or you don't care about which the answer is about? – Helmar Sep 27 '17 at 17:30
  • Possibly both if there's meaningful a difference! – Fox Sep 27 '17 at 17:31
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    I wonder if the speakers who deemed it "perfect usage" would also accept the corresponding use of no: "We found that it's no plausible." (Cf. standard "no good", "no more plausible".) – ruakh Sep 28 '17 at 14:43
  • "Let's see if it is at all plausible." – Hot Licks Sep 29 '17 at 0:15
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Any is a very flexible term: the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists it an an adjective, pronoun, noun, and adverb.1 In this case, you are using it to modify the adjective "plausible", so we need to look at the adverbial sense.2

As an adverb meaning "at all" or "in any degree", any is almost3 always used with adjectives of comparison: any later, any easier, any more beautiful, any less clear. The relevant definition from the OED:4

C. adv.

  1. Modifying comparative adjectives and adverbs: in any degree, to any extent, at all. See also ANY MORE adj., ANY MO adj., ANY MORE adv.

So in your example, it would sound idiomatic to say Let's see if it's any more plausible [when we change this variable], but without that comparative element it sounds wrong to my (native AmE speaker) ear.

The OED does offer one other adverbial definition:

  1. U.S. colloq. and Brit. regional. In negative, interrogative, and conditional contexts, modifying a verb: to the slightest extent; at all.

While this definition sounds a bit more like your usage, note that this is only when any modifies a verb while you are using it to modify an adjective.

None of this is to say that you won't be understood when using it this way; the meaning is clear, even if it's a non-standard use of the word. Language changes and evolves, and if your use catches on with enough people, then one day the OED might include it, with examples like "Is he any nice?" and "The book wasn't any interesting." At the moment, however, those examples are going to sound non-idiomatic to native speakers.


1 "any, adj., pron., and n., and adv." OED Online, Oxford University Press, June 2017, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/8973. Unfortunately the OED is a subscription service, so the link is paywalled. If you cannot view the link, check with your local library, as many have subscriptions that give patrons access.

2The OED'S sub-definition "A. adj. (determiner)" addresses the word when used with nouns; there is a great deal of information available on this use, generally under something like "any as a determiner". Definition "B. pron. and n." addresses use cases where any is the subject or object of a sentence.

3 The one exception I can find to this is good, as in "let's see if this cake is any good" or "It just isn't any good." However, this exception is specific to that word; note that we do not say "any bad" or "any adequate" or "any OK" in similar situations. This issue, I think, perhaps deserves its own question.

4A similar definition of any as an adverb may be found at MacMillan Dictionaries (with thanks to Edwin Ashworth).

  • I'd agree totally. Can you find any supporting evidence for what you claim? – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '17 at 18:03
  • Yep, one could write '.. is there any plausible reason...." again only use "any" with the modifier. – Carl Witthoft Sep 27 '17 at 18:43
  • Seen. Vote adjusted. But posting incomplete answers as 'space holders' because one hasn't time to do basic research will still attract my downvote. It's a different matter where one has to find some abstruse article one half remembers. / OED is way behind the game in not reclassifying 'any milk' as a determiner usage. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 28 '17 at 15:10
  • This Wikipedia article gives a good overview of determiners; 'any' has two different usages even in this class. There are articles on ELU covering determiners (some differentiate form and function, using 'determinative' for the word class). – Edwin Ashworth Sep 28 '17 at 15:58

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