Thank you so much for checking out my question!

I am currently trying to be a teacher of English in Japan and reviewing the basic grammars of English. And I hit a wall. I cannot explain what is wrong with the sentence as follows:

"Not anyone can be a poet."

I usually write "Not everyone can be a poet." to express the same meaning. However, even though something seems to be very wrong with the sentence above, I am unable to nail down what is actually wrong...

Can someone please kindly enlighten me with this issue in terms of grammar and usage?

Thank you so much for your time!!

  • 4
    Not just anyone can be a poet is idiomatic, but it does sound odd without the just. – KarlG Jan 16 '19 at 9:37

In my opinion “not everyone can be a poet” is a general way of saying. “Not anyone can be a poet” can be used when subjects are talked about or are in front of you, students for instance, who’ve discussed their desire or wish to become poets.

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  • I understood what you meant and it seems to be like a connotation-level issue. So it should theoretically grammatically correct but less often used. – Kyozy Jan 16 '19 at 8:14

You can say in the affirmative "Anyone can be a poet", but the literal meaning of "not anyone" is "no-one". Using "not everyone" instead makes the meaning much clearer.

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  • Thank your your answer! It seems even though we cannot say "it's wrong!", somewhat is is not best way to describe what is meant to say! Thank you! – Kyozy Jan 16 '19 at 9:12

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