“Is Anybody Home?”
If you look up anyone or anybody in a bilingual dictionary, you’re likely to find cualquiera and cualquier, as well as alguien and nadie. They are not interchangeable. Since most inexpensive bilingual dictionaries do not provide examples of usage, you could make a usage error. Let’s tackle these with a few easy-to-remember examples and what they mean in English.
If you mean anyone at all, as in any ol' person, you need cualquiera, when used as a pronoun:
Cualquiera puede hacer esta tarea (Anyone/Anybody can do this task).
If used as an adjective, cualquiera becomes cualquier and goes before the noun it modifies, regardless of its gender:
Cualquier persona aquí te puede ayudar (Anybody here can help you).
The plural forms are cualesquier and cualesquiera:
Traiga cualesquier herramientas que tenga a mano (Bring any and all tools you have at hand).
Another solution, when the notion of anyone is applied with the sense of whosoever or whomsoever is quienquiera:
Quienquiera que oiga esto dirá que es una mentira (Anyone who hears this will say it’s a lie).
Dígaselo a quienquiera, no me importa un bledo (Tell whomsoever you please, it doesn’t matter a bit to me).
If you mean anyone in a question, as when seeking somebody, anybody, use alguien:
¿Hay alguien en casa? (Is there anybody home?)
However, as you probably know, there are negative forms for negative constructions. In such cases, anyone translates as nadie. Notice that when nadie is the antecedent of a adjective clause, the verb in that clause has to be in the subjunctive, because it modifies a non-existent antecedent (which is what nadie must mean, since it denotes no person):
No hay nadie en esta oficina que le pueda ayudar, lo siento (There is nobody in this office who can help you, I’m sorry).
Use extreme caution: If cualquiera follows a noun, it can be demeaning, particularly if used with reference to women:
Juana es una mujer cualquiera (Jane is anybody’s/everybody’s girl).
- Practice Makes Perfect: The Spanish Subjunctive Up Close http://www.amazon.com/Practice-Makes-Perfect-Spanish-Subjunctive/dp/0071492259/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219863254&sr=1-1
This post is part of the series: Spanish Usage
The articles in this series deal with various questions about the right choice of word or phrase when English may have one or two structures but Spanish has more. They often deal with prepositional issues.
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Above”
- Using “Actual” and “Actually” in Spanish
- A Problem Preposition: The Ways “About” is Expressed in Spanish
- The Many Spanish Faces of the English Verb “to Agree”
- Spanish Usage Questions: Ways to say “Again”
- Expressing the Many Meanings of After
- Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say “Ahead”
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Anyone” and “Anybody”
- Using “Anyway…” in Spanish
- Let’s Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
- What Do You Use for “Around” in Spanish
- The Spanish Verbs Meaning “to Ask” are Many!
- Beware of False Cognates! How to Express “Attend,” “Assist,” and “Help”
- Are You “Cool” or “Cold”? Explore the Nuances in Spanish
- The Difference Between “Why” and “Because” in Spanish
- The Temporal and Spacial Meanings of “Before”: How to Get it Right in Spanish
- Don’t Be Left in the Dust! Learn to Express the Meanings of “Behind” in Spanish
- Get the Low Down on the Preposition “Below” and Say it Right in Spanish!
- Understand Saying “Help” in Spanish
- Translating “Beside” & “Besides” into Spanish: Interesting Solutions!
- Not all Meanings of “But” Are Equal!
- Expressing the Various Meanings of the Preposition “By” in Spanish
- What Can the English Word “Can” Mean and How to Get it Right in Spanish
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Corner”
- The Word “Country” in Spanish
- The Various Meanings of “Outweigh” in English and How to Express Them in Spanish
- Expressing the Idea of “Ownership” in Spanish
- How to Express “Time & Distance” in Spanish
- Treat, Try, Attempt, Deal with… In Spanish, You Probably Need “Tratar”
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Having Fun”
- Even a Word Like “Even” Has Many Counterparts in Spanish
- Don’t Go Wrong When You Look for Ways to Express “to fail”
- Do You Mean “Fair” Weather, a “Fair” Game or a “Fair” Complexion? Learn How to Say Them in Spanish!
- Love, Desire and Wanting – Spanish Style!
- Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing… and More
- You Have Nothing to Fear Except Not Knowing How to Say “Fear” in Spanish!
- Spanish Equivalents of the Common English Word “Find”
- Discover the Various Meanings of “Middle” and How to Say Them in Spanish
- Not All Spanish Words Meaning “Worker” Are Created Equal