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Today's Formula 1 Grand Prix ended in a bit of a controversy and there was a protest that the regulations had not been applied correctly by the officials. The relevant article (48.12) includes:

"If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message 'lapped cars may now overtake' has been sent to all competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car."

The problem was that only a subset of lapped cars were directed to overtake the leaders, which had a material effect on the outcome of the race (it was just the lapped cars between the leader and the racer in second place that went on to win as a result as it allowed him to close up to the leader before the restart).

A protest was rejected, and one of the grounds was that "any" does not imply "all", but that seems incorrect if it is speaking of a requirement, rather than merely permitting lapped cars to overtake the leaders (which would defeat the object of the regulation, which is to prevent them interfering with the racers on the lead lap).

So in this case, is it reasonable for "any" not to mean "all"?

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  • I don't really see how this article applies, as the message did not get "sent to all competitors via the official messaging system." Nothing beyond that proposition applies to this situation, where only certain competitors somehow received the message. Dec 12, 2021 at 22:59
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    I know nothing about the implementation. The rule seems clearly written, though. It should apply to any and all cars that have been lapped by the leader. Dec 13, 2021 at 4:36
  • @TinfoilHat That is exactly the issue, whether the officials applied the regulation correctly, the message should have been sent to all competitors, but wasn't (presumably to engineer an "exciting" end to the event). Dec 13, 2021 at 6:18
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    We know what 'Anyone found shoplifting will be prosecuted' means. Dec 13, 2021 at 13:08

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[Cambridge] any:

one of or each of a particular type of person or thing when it is not important which

some, or even the smallest amount or number of

Both definitions allow for “any” being applied to only some of the following rather than to all.

However, in the circumstances of a race, which is presumed to be an equitable (=treating everyone fairly) interaction between participants, the officials’ interpretation of “any” as applying to a selected sub group rather than all members of the group introduces inequity that is inconsistent with fairness and hence should be rejected. The only equitable interpretation here is that any means all.

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    I think the "will be required", rather than "may be required" is important. The requirement is not conditional, so the "will be required" makes no sense unless it is applied to all. It is the context that is the issue for me. Dec 13, 2021 at 9:02
  • " when it is not important which" in this case, it was the "which" that was crucial. If they had let them all through (which is what has happened on every occasion before this one) there wouldn't have been enough time to restart the race (and that would have been a consideration in the leader's choice not to change tyres as that would have lost them the race). It is a badly worded regulation. Dec 13, 2021 at 9:06
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In this context, I think it's clear that the word "any" means "all." This is consistent with definition 1b from Merriam-Webster's entry on "ANY":

: EVERY —used to indicate one selected without restriction

Any child would know that.

In your sample text, the phrase used is "any cars," although it would have the same meaning if it said "any car," in which case "any car" would mean "every car" in line with Merriam-Webster above. ("Every" is restricted to singular usage, even when the meaning is similar to "all.")

Cambridge Dictionary's grammar guide calls this the "strong form" of the word "any," which carries the meaning of "it does not matter which." They give as examples:

We could choose any colours we wanted.

(Meaning: "All" colors were available for choosing.)

When you make a late booking, you don’t know where you’re going to go, do you? It could be any destination.

(Meaning: "All" destinations are applicable to this discussion. There are no destinations that are exceptions to this statement.)

In other words, "any cars" means that no matter which cars are selected for consideration, they must follow the requirements listed. In my mind, the meaning of "any" in this type of case is similar to saying that if you hypothetically did a spot check and selected a car at random that fit that description, then that car would need to follow the requirements listed -- and you have to imagine that the spot check could be repeated an infinite number of times, such that all of the cars that match the description would eventually be checked in the spot check.

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