Any + singular or plural noun?



I am referring to Exercise 13 (Sentence 11) on page 143 in the Blue Azar.

One of my students challenged me on the use of any with a plural noun in this sentence: "Alice reads The New York Times every day. She doesn't read any other newspapers."

He insists that it should be "She doesn't read any other newspaper."

My colleagues (at Pace) and I agree that the sentence as it is in the book is OK.

Can you please help me with this. What's the rule?

Ted Smith
Posted 26 July 2002

"Any other newspapers" is correct as it appears in the Blue Azar (Understanding and Using English Grammar, Prentice Hall Regents, 1999). "Any other newspaper" is also possible.

Other is an adjective that can modify a plural count noun (other newspapers) or a noncount noun (other information). If other is meant to modify a singular count noun, such as "newspaper," it must be combined with "an-." Thus, "another newspaper" is possible.

In addition, there is another way to combine a singular count noun such as "newspaper" with other; that is to place any before the adjective other. You can say "any other newspaper," so this phrase is also correct.

"Any other newspaper," however, means something a little different from "another newspaper." "Any other newspaper" means "not even one" and emphasizes the meaning of "zero." "Another newspaper" means just one more in addition to the one or ones already mentioned. It refers to one more of a kind and continues a list.

The difference in meaning between "any other newspaper" and "any other newspapers" is slight: "Any other newspaper" refers to "not even one newspaper - not even the Washington Post or The London Times or Pravda or one other newspaper," thinking of them individually and as a possible alternative to The New York Times. "Any other newspapers" would refer to all of the possible newspapers in the world, and in Alice's case in Sentence 11 on page 143, could be many newspapers, not just one.

For more insights on any, please see the message "Any: Singular and plural nouns."

Return to the Key Word Index