Should I use "a noun" or "nouns" in this sentence?

We use any before nouns to refer to indefinite or unknown quantities or an unlimited entity.


We use any before a noun to refer to indefinite or unknown quantities or an unlimited entity.

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    Your sentences do not make sense as they stand. Are you trying to say "We use [the word] 'any' before [a] noun[s] ..."? I think I know what you are trying to say in the sentence(s), but you cannot just you 'any' before any noun (which is what you seem to be implying) - you can use it only before some nouns and in some contexts. I'm assuming that you are learning English, in which case you questions are probably more suited to our sister site English Language Learners. As regards your actual question (as I understand it), either form is possible. – TrevorD Mar 12 at 19:27
  • Yes. (They are both correct.) Which you use depends on what you're trying to express. – Jason Bassford Mar 13 at 18:03
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    @JasonBassford Both express the same ideas. Therefore, as long as they want to express the rule that "any" is used before an arbitrary noun to do what the predicate says, there is no other dependence for the choice between those two alternatives. – user647486 Mar 13 at 21:23
  • @user647486 But if you're saying they both express the identical thing, then there is no point in discussing it. Instead, flip a coin. What I mean is that the wording does make a difference—and that difference determines the word used. – Jason Bassford Mar 13 at 23:45

In English, sentences in present tense, indicative mood, with the subject quantified by an indefinite article, can often be understood as general truths.

A dog wags its tail.

is a statement that is true when there exists some dog that wags its tail. However, this same sentence is also interpreted as saying that

An arbitrary dog will wag its tail.

The indefinite article a, since it indicates that the noun dog is not identifiable to the listener, can be interpreted as an arbitrary.

The same happens when no article is used in front of a plural noun. The sentence

Dogs wag their tails.

is true when there is a group of more than one dog that at that moment wagged their tails. However, it is also interpreted as

All dogs wag their tails.

Actually, very likely people will find odd the first interpretation for such a short sentence, but using more specific predicates can make the first interpretation more feasible. For example,

Dogs wag their tails in front of me.

Your sentences are but the same use of a plural without article or a singular with an indefinite article in a present indicative, to express a fact understood to be general. They are mildly ambiguous in both cases due to the lack of proper quantification, even though most English speakers would find unlikely interpreting them as non-general statements about the use of the word any before all nouns.

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