Anyone vs. Everyone

By Maeve Maddox

A promotional announcement for an end-of-year review on NPR set me thinking about the difference between anyone and everyone:

The year 2014 has been no fun for just about everyone.

The construction struck me as odd because the negative “no fun” led me to expect anyone, not everyone.

Anyone means anybody or any person. It refers to an individual in a group; which one doesn’t matter. Anyone is the usual choice in negative statements and in questions:

There wasn’t anyone in the lobby.
I didn’t see anyone in the street.
The year 2014 was no fun for anyone.
Does anyone remember his name?
Can anyone learn how to sing?

In addition to its use with negatives and questions, anyone is used for emphasis:

Anyone could do it, even a caveman.

Everyone means everybody or every person. It refers to all the members in a group.

Everyone worked late today.
Everyone is welcome at the meetings.
Her mother asked everyone to contribute to the food drive.
The year 2014 was miserable for just about everyone.

In some contexts, there is very little difference between anyone and everyone:

Correct: Everyone benefits from a just government.
Correct: Anyone benefits from a just government.

Sometimes they are not interchangeable:

Incorrect: The new CEO knows anyone in the business.
Correct : The new CEO knows everyone in the business.

Note: One could say, “The new CEO knows everyone who is anyone in the business.”

The NPR sentence sounds unnecessarily convoluted to me, but then, it did catch my attention.

Some idioms with anyone:

anyone’s guess
Something that can’t be known until it happens. “It’s anyone’s guess who will win the election.”

anyone’s game
An evenly balanced contest. “Tied in the seventh inning, it was still anyone’s game.”

not give anyone the time of day
Ignore someone, out of dislike or boorishness. “The new employee won’t give anyone the time of day.”

Idioms with everyone:

everyone who is anyone
Anyone of any importance. “We talked with everyone who is anyone in the world of cycling, starting with urban mobility expert Mikael Colville-Andersen.”

can’t please everyone
No matter what you do, someone will object to it. “I stopped worrying about what people thought about my art. You can’t please everyone.

everyone and his brother
an especially large number of people. “Everyone and his brother had diplomatic representatives there.”

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5 Responses to “Anyone vs. Everyone”

  • Syed Ghouse

    Initially, I was confdent with “everyone” the moment I read “just about” as I think “just about” can’t be used with “anyone”. (am I am wrong here? hmm…)

    However, I am now all-the-more confused as I don’t see a conclusion in your Post to whether what you saw on NPR is acceptable or not.

    Can you please comment.

  • Jim Porter

    It doesn’t at all surprise me that NPR came up with the EVERYONE construction.

    This is a day when journalism schools teach students how to get a story, and apparently not at all how to tell it. I hear news reporters, news anchors (I refuse to go along with the British designation “news presenter”), as well on-camera people, regularly forget even how to
    use the simple past tense. A couple of days ago, a national reporter “seen a man running from the scene.” (No pun intended.)

    NPR is not alone in committing surgery on the English language.

    (I must make the disclaimer that I seldom agree with NPR’s political views and policies.)

  • David Knuttunen

    It strikes me that the difference is essentially the same as between the universal (“everyone”) and existential (“anyone”) quantifiers in logic.

  • Luke

    The original NPR sentence didn’t bother me. A negative sentence requiring “anyone” would be:

    The year 2014 has *not* been fun for anyone.

    I think the sentence sounds fine in the positive. Replace “no fun” with any other adjective.

    The year 2014 has been *terrible* for just about everyone.

    The quantifier (?) “just about” forces the use of “everyone” in this case.

    Compare the following two sentences:

    Camping in this weather would be no fun for just about everyone (in our group of regular campers, except ol’ Joe, who loves camping in miserable weather).

    Camping in this weather would be no fun for just about anyone (except people who have a predilection for “miserable” camping experiences).

    And then these two…

    The camping trip wasn’t any fun for anyone on the trip. [No one had fun.]

    The camping trip wasn’t any fun for just about everyone on the trip. [there was at least one person in the group of everyone who had some fun.]

    Sentences with “just about anyone”…

    Permits are given to just about anyone who asks.
    Permits are given to just about everyone who asks. [same meaning]

    Camping in this weather would be no fun for just about anyone who didn’t have a keen interest in studying the migratory habits of wetlands aquatic invertebrates (… but there still might be some fools who, in addition to the scientifically motivated investigators, relish camping in such miserable weather).

    I’m thinking “just about anyone” has to be followed by “who …”

    But I’m thinking too much. You could ask just about anyone and they would say just about everyone knows I think too much.

  • Maeve

    Syed Ghouse,
    A little late, but here goes. I think the sentence is unidiomatic. I can’t find anything in my references to support this view, so I’m not going to say the NPR sentence is “unacceptable.” I can only say that it sounds odd to me. As for “about anyone,” the Ngram Viewer shows both phrases, “just about everyone” and “just about anyone,” as well as “about everyone” and “about anyone.” I couldn’t search for the phrase “no fun for just about everyone” because the Ngram limit is five words to a phrase. The phrase “no fun for anyone” shows results, but “no fun for everyone” is not found in the database.

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