“Any” Plus a Singular Noun

In this recent post I discussed my overuse of any. I’d now like to suggest one possible reason for overuse of any.

Consider the following:

a tax imposed by a government authority

a tax imposed by any government authority

I suspect that some drafters think that using any in the second example would ensure that the provision couldn’t be read as applying only to a tax imposed by a single government authority, and that’s it.

But any can’t be counted on to accomplish that. If someone tells you, “You can have any car for free,” I don’t think you’d have much luck convincing the world that that means you’re entitled to as many cars as you want.

If you want to convey that meaning, you have to go beyond any:

one or more taxes imposed by one or more government authorities

Whether you want to go through such part-versus-the-whole contortions is a separate question, one that I considered in this post.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.