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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
Do you have children? vs. Do you have ANY children? Is there a difference?
Tuesday March 6th 2012
Question
Do you have children? vs. Do you have ANY children? Is there a difference?
Answer

Question

A reader from Japan asked about the difference between "Do you have children?" and "Do you have any children?"


Answer

The short answer is that there is little difference between these two sentences, if any at all. To help you explore this further, below is a review of how any is used, followed by an explanation of how it can make a subtle difference in meaning.

Usage
Any is a quantifier that asks or tells whether there is none at all of something. As shown in the examples below, any can be used in questions, negative statements, and negative questions, with plural and noncount nouns.  


Questions
1.    Do you have any children? (children is plural)
2.    Does the apartment have any heat? (heat is noncount)

Negative questions
1.    Don’t you have any pets? (pets is plural)
2.    Don’t the students have any homework?  (homework is noncount)

Negative statements
3.    My mother doesn’t have any health problems. (health problems is plural)
4.    The apartment didn’t have any heat. (heat is noncount)

What difference does any it make?
In the examples above, any is not grammatically necessary. It can be deleted. However, including any can make a slight difference in meaning, by adding emphasis.


In sentence 1 above (“Do you have any children?”), for example, the word any emphasizes a focus on whether the answer might be none at all. Similarly, in sentence 3 (“Don’t the students have any homework?”), any adds interest in, and perhaps some surprise about, the idea of that there might be none at all. And in sentence 6 (“The apartment didn’t have any heat”), any similarly draws attention to the idea that there was absolutely no heat at all.


Keep in mind, however, that these differences are subtle, and some speakers report that adding any doesn’t change the meaning at all.


I hope this helps.

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