“Anyone” is an indefinite pronoun that means ‘any person’ or ‘people.’ “Any one” is an adjective phrase that references any person, place, or thing.
What is the difference between anyone and any one?
The words “any one” and “anyone” may look similar, but they do not mean the same thing. The main difference is that “anyone” is an indefinite pronoun while “any one” is not really a word at all–– it’s a two-worded phrase.
More specifically, the pronoun “anyone” (one word) can reference one person or a group of people, while the phrase “any one” (two words) references any single person, place, or thing.
The origins of confusion: anyone vs. any one
According to Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU), there was a time when “anyone” was written as two words: “any one.” But as with many English phrases, the unification of “any one” is complete, and the single-worded version is now a part of standard English (Garner 58).
The union of “any” and “one” is thought to have taken place in 1844 (Modern English), although Old English ænigmon also meant ‘anyone’ or ‘someone.’ Additional forms included:
- Old English (c. 450–1150 CE) = ǽnig + mon (any one, any man)
- Middle English (c. 1150–1450 CE) = anī ōn (any single one, anyone)
What does anyone mean?
According to the New Oxford English Dictionary, the word anyone is an indefinite pronoun that references “any person or people” or “a person of importance or authority” (“Anyone” 71). For example,
- “Anyone who’s anyone has visited New York.”
- “They say anyone can eventually live on Mars.”
- “Do you know anyone who bought stock in GameStop?”
- “Can anyone explain the stock market to me?”
The pronoun “anyone” is the most similar to “anybody” (another indefinite pronoun) because they serve the same function: to describe any person at all. For example,
- “Is there anybody on the International Space Station?”
- “I can’t see anybody on the moon.”
Synonyms of anyone
All, anybody, everybody, everyone, somebody, someone.
Antonyms of anyone
Nobody, none, no one.
What does any one mean?
“Any one” is not a recognized word in the English language. In fact, standard dictionaries don’t provide definitions of “any one,” except to differentiate it from its single word counterpart. However, we can use “any one” as an adjective phrase to indiscriminately reference a person, place, thing from a larger group.
- “She didn’t enjoy any one your ESL classes.”
- “We can study any one of these suffixes.”
- “Any one of you can become a linguist.”
- “I would love to study at any one of those universities.”
- “Any one of them can work at the office.”
- “Any one of you can be granted access to the building.”
- “Any one of us might find open office hours helpful.”
- “Any one of these offices may be open.”
How to use anyone vs. any one in a sentence?
Many writers confuse terms like “anyone” and “any one” because they don’t understand indefinite pronouns or how “any one” functions as an adjective phrase. To settle the confusion once and for all, let’s review these simple grammar topics.
What are indefinite pronouns?
In general, indefinite pronouns are words that can describe any person, place, or thing (although they can specify non-specific actions in certain circumstances).
When indefinite pronouns contain quantifying or distributing terms like “any,” “every,” “some,” or “no,” there are specific contexts when one word is more appropriate than the other.
Indefinite pronouns with “every” reference all quantities of people, places, or things:
- Everyone = every person in existence or of a group.
- Everybody = all people as a group.
- Everywhere = every location imaginable.
- Everything = every person, place, or thing imaginable (as a whole).
Indefinite pronouns with “some” reference partial quantities of people, places, or things:
- Someone/somebody = a non-general person that may or may not exist.
- Somewhere = a non-specific place.
- Something = a general and non-specific person, place, or thing.
Indefinite pronouns with “any” imply no selective preference to a person, place, or thing in a group:
- Anyone/anybody = a non-specific person or group of people.
- Anywhere = a non-specific location.
- Anything = a non-specific person, place, thing, or action.
Indefinite pronouns with “none” or “no” (negative quantifiers) reference zero quantities of people, places, or things:
- No one = zero specific individuals.
- Nobody = zero individuals or groups of people.
- Nowhere = zero locations.
- Nothing = zero persons, places, or things.
Indefinite pronouns for individuals or people
As we can see, indefinite pronouns reference non-specific objects, but we can use their determiners to address specific types of nouns. When we need to address people, we only use the following indefinite pronouns:
- No one/nobody
- “Can someone help me find a dictionary?
- “We need somebody to teach.”
- “Does anyone study the English language?”
- “Anybody can learn English grammar.”
- “No one attended class.”
- “There’s nobody at the school.”
There are exceptions to the rules, such as when we use “something,” “anything,” or “nothing” to include all “things” imaginable. Likewise, the word “thing” is appropriate when there is uncertainty over a noun’s humanity. For example,
- “Is something wrong?”
- “There’s something outside.”
- “I didn’t see anything outside.”
- “It must have been nothing.”
What are adjective phrases?
Adjective phrases are what they sound like: two or more words that describe something else. In the case of “any one,” we have the determiner “any” paired with the number “one” to select a single individual noun from multiple options indiscriminately.
- “I don’t want to see any one of your friends again.”
- “We will gladly take any one of those desserts.”
- “She doesn’t want any one of us in the room.”
- “The rascal could have been any one of my children.”
The Word Counter has covered similar adjective phrases, such as “every one,” “some day,” “a lot,” or “a while.” These particular phrases parallel “any one” because they reference certain people, dates, quantities, and times in a nonspecific manner.
When to use anyone vs. any one in a sentence?
“Anyone” does not explicitly reference any single member of a group, and it is often used when the subject in question is general and open-ended. For example, if someone said “they can choose anyone they want,” that means “they” can select any or all of the people available.
In contrast, the sentence “they can choose any one they want” means that someone can choose any person, place, or thing available. Therefore:
- Use “anyone” to vaguely reference people.
- Use “any one” to specifically reference any single person, place, or thing.
- “Anyone attending the meeting will expect snacks.”
- “Does anyone want to bring snacks?”
- “Anyone who can bring snacks, raise your hands.”
- “Doesn’t any one of you want to bring snacks?”
- “Any one of you could volunteer to bring the snacks.”
- “Is anyone willing to bring snacks?”
- “You can share snacks with anyone you like!”
When to use anyone vs. anybody?
According to Garner’s Modern English Usage, the pronouns “anyone” and “anybody” are completely interchangeable, although “anyone” appears far more often than “anybody.” The preference toward “anyone” is likely due to context and “euphony,” as “anyone” rolls off the tongue a bit easier than its four-syllable counterpart (Garner 58).
- “Can anyone hear me?”
- “Can anybody hear me?”
- “I will travel with anyone.”
- “I will travel with anybody.”
- “Is there anyone here from the United States?”
- “Is there anybody here from the United States?”
Anyone can learn the difference between “anyone” and “any one.” See how much you’ve learned with the following multiple-choice questions.
- True or false: “any one” is a common misspelling of “anyone.”
- “Any one” is a ____________.
a. Modal phrase
b. Adverb phrase
c. Adjective phrase
d. Indefinite pronoun
- The word “anyone” is a ____________.
b. Indefinite pronoun
c. Modal verb
d. Adjective phrase
- Which of the following can reference any number of people?
a. Any one
d. All of the above
- “Anyone” is synonymous with ____________.
a. Any one
c. No one
- “Anī ōn phr.” Middle English Compendium, Regents of the University of Michigan, 2021.
- “Anyone.” The Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
- “Anyone.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 71.
- Garner, B. “Anyone. A. And any one.” Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 58.
- “Indefinite pronouns.” Resources for Learning English, EF Education First, 2020.
- Johnson, M.L. (1916). “Ǽnig.” A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary for the Use of Students, The Old-Engli.sh Dictionary, 2004.
- “This, that, these, those.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.