Usage and Grammar

Q. If I were to address multiple friends, would it be more appropriate to begin with “Does any of y’all . . .” or “Do any of y’all . . .”? I would have thought the former was correct because “any” could be singular (as in “any one of my interlocutors”), but my partner thinks the latter is correct. I’m willing to be wrong, but I want to know why! Can CMOS weigh in?

A. According to Bryan Garner’s Modern English Usage (5th ed., 2022), under “any (B)”: “Any may take either a singular or a plural verb. The singular use is fairly rare.” And when it’s treated as singular despite being followed by “of” plus a plural noun, “any is elliptical for any one; the sentence often reads better if one is retained.”

So if you want to make sure others understand your use as singular, don’t be elliptical about things. In other words, retain one: “Does any one of y’all . . .” Otherwise, treat any as plural: “Do any of y’all . . .” And note that any one is two words in this context. Compare “Does anyone know . . .”—where the indefinite pronoun anyone is one word (and, like any one, singular).

In sum, you’re both right, but your partner’s version, which doesn’t rely on reading “any” as elliptical for “any one,” is best.