Any vs. Either

background image 296

I just did a double-take when reading an article about creating passport photos using Photoshop Elements and another application. Here’s what threw me:

If you have any of these two applications, then you can follow this simple do-it-yourself project…

any of these two applications


In speaking of two applications, the word either is called for:

If you have either of these two applications.

If, however, one is talking about three or more applications, one may say:

If you have any of the photo editing applications available these days, you can….

either = one or the other; from OE hwaether, each of two
any = one indifferently out of more than two

The negative of either is neither.

Here are some quotations from the press:

… the poor and the unwanted, with people very much like my mother.My mother needed neither my pity nor my shame. Just my compassion and respect. … (www.nytimes.com)

… on trade and immigration — is taking root within his adopted party, and those uneasy with grievance politics are either giving in or giving up the fight. (www.nytimes.com)

Hearty and nutritious, but still buttery and rich, these unfussy pancakes come together quickly and without any special equipment. (www.nytimes.com)

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

7 thoughts on “Any vs. Either”

  1. I agree. When using “either” the comparison is between two items: “either . . . or.”

    It is the same with “neither . . . nor” and “not only . . . but also.”

    When using “any,” “most,” “many,” “some,” etc., these should only apply to three or more items.

  2. On this subject: I think a few refers to mabye 2-3 items while several refers to maybe 3-6? And a couple of items would refer to 2 (like a couple/two people.)
    I argue with my husband about this often. He says a few is 4-7 items.
    What do you all think?

  3. …or somewhat akin to mis-using “between” and “among”. Most people seem to use “between” when they really should be using “among”.

  4. …or somewhat akin to mis-using “between” and “among”. Most people seem to use “between” when they really should be using “among”.

  5. Another closely related (and frequently wrong) comparison is saying someone or something is the best of two. As I understand it, best is reserved for comparing three or more. With only two people or things, one can only be the better.

Leave a Comment