Any(one/thing...) in Latin — ullus, quisquam, quivis, quilibet, (ali)qui, (ali)quis, quispiam

By Pacifica, in 'Grammar Tips And Examples', Feb 20, 2019.

  1. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    In English, we use the word “any” and its compounds (“anyone”, “anything”…) in broadly three different sorts of senses: “any (at all)” on the one hand, “any (you like)” or “any (random)” on the other and “any (indefinite)” — the sort of “any” that verges on the meaning of “some” — on the third (if you will lend me a hand here, for I have only two). In Latin, however, these ideas are expressed with different words. This situation sometimes causes confusion, and one may as a result pick the wrong sort of “any” when writing or speaking Latin. Callaina once suggested that I should write a post on this, and now that I’ve got the time and inclination, here goes.

    1) Ullus, ulla, ullum means “any” in the sense of “any (at all)”, in negative, interrogative and conditional clauses, and also in various other kinds of clauses that are similar to conditional or negative ones.

    By “similar to conditional or negative ones” I mean things like this:

    “Whoever speaks any truth (= relative clause) is told to shut up” is similar in meaning to “If anyone speaks any truth, (= conditional clause) they’re told to shut up”.

    “Where there was any food, (= relative clause of place) people would fight over it” is similar to “If there was any food anywhere, (= conditional clause) people would fight over it”.

    “I love this guy more than I do any other (= clause of comparison)” is similar to “I don’t love any other (= negative clause) as much as I do this guy”.

    That’s why all of those clauses can take the same sort of Latin “any”.

    Here are some examples of the use of ullus:

    In a negative clause: Numquam ullum furtum commisit = “He has never committed any theft."

    In an interrogative clause: Num ullum cibum edisti hoc suaviorem? = “Have you eaten any food tastier than this?”

    In a conditional clause: Si ullus esset in te pudor, talia dicere non auderes = “If you had any decency (more literally, if there were any decency in you), you wouldn’t dare to say such things.”

    In a relative clause that’s similar to a conditional one: In quo ullus est pudor, talia dicere non audet = “Someone who has any decency (more literally, (he) in whom there is any decency) doesn’t dare to say such things.”

    Ullus is primarily used in an adjectival way, that is, in agreement with a noun as in all the above examples; but it can also be used as a pronoun meaning “anyone”, as in the following:

    Cave ne ulli hoc narres = “Be sure not to tell this to anyone.”

    Si ab ullo litteras accepissem, certiorem te fecissem = “If I had received a letter from anyone, I would have let you know.”

    Numquid ullius panis meo suavior est? = "Is anyone's bread better than mine, really?"

    This is most common in the masculine, since when you talk of “anyone”, you most of the time don’t know the gender of that “anyone”, and Latin defaults to the masculine when the gender is unknown. However, it can happen that one wants to refer specifically to “any woman”, in which case one may say ulla.

    Ullum for “anything”, on the other hand, is very rare and in most cases best avoided. Ulla res is more regular.

    Note that in the masculine form, this use of ullus as a pronoun meaning "someone" happens less often in the nominative and accusative than in the other cases.

    2) Quisquam, quicquam/quidquam (the last two are variant spellings of the same) means “anyone (at all)” in the masculine (quisquam) and “anything (at all)” in the neuter (quicquam/quidquam). It usually doesn’t have a feminine. Like ullus, it’s found mostly in negative, interrogative, conditional and similar clauses.


    Amo te nec quisquam est quem magis desiderem = “I love you, nor is there anyone I miss more strongly.”

    Num quicquam ego in te temptavi, cum tu mihi esses molestissimus? = “Did I attempt anything against you, though you were being a real pain to me?”

    Hoc si cuiquam dixeris, occidam te = “If you tell this to anyone, I’ll kill you.”

    Quam diu quisquam erit qui te defendere audeat, vives (Cic. Catil. 1.6) = “As long as there is anyone who dares to defend you, you shall live.”

    Quisquam has a derivative adverb quoquam, meaning “anywhere” with motion, that is, “to any place (at all)”. For example: Negat se quoquam iturum = “He says he isn’t going anywhere.” (More literally, “He denies that he is about to go anywhere”.)

    3) Quivis, quaevis, quodvis means “any (you like)”, “any (random)”, “any (old)”.


    Quodvis vinum illum delectabit = “Any wine will please him.”

    Quosvis amicos invita = “Invite any friends you like.”

    Hunc quaevis puellula percellere potest = “Any little girl could knock this man down.”

    4) In addition to the above adjectival use, quivis and quaevis can also be used as pronouns, that is, meaning by themselves “anyone (you like)/any (random) person” and “any woman (you like)/any (random) woman” respectively, without any noun to go with them. This is more common in the masculine, simply because, with this kind of indefiniteness, it happens more often that one doesn’t have a specific gender in mind for the “anyone” that one is talking about, and Latin defaults to the masculine for people of unspecified gender. It remains, however, perfectly OK to use the feminine if the context requires it. The neuter form quodvis isn’t used as a pronoun meaning “anything”. There is a special form for that: quidvis.


    Quivis hoc facere potest = “Anyone can do this”, “Any random/average guy can do this.”

    Illum quidvis ab honestate avertet = “Anything will turn him away from honesty.”

    Carmen tam pulchrum non quivis scribere potest = “Not anyone can write such a beautiful poem”, i.e. it isn’t something that any random or average person can do. (Compare: non quivis = "not anyone" in the sense of "not a random person", "not your average guy", "not just any person you choose out of a crowd"; non quisquam = "not anyone" in the sense of "no one". Very different meanings.)

    Quivis has related adverbs: ubivis = “anywhere (you like)”, “in any (random) place”; quovis = “anywhere (you like) (with motion)”, “to any (random) place”…

    5) Quilibet, quaelibet, quodlibet means the same and is used the same way as quivis, quaevis, quodvis, so see that section. The forms of quivis used in the examples there can all be replaced with forms of quilibet without affecting the meaning.

    6) Quilibet and quaelibet can, like quivis and quaevis, be used as pronouns meaning “anyone (you like)/any (random) person” and “any woman (you like)/any (random) woman”. As with quidvis, there is also a special form for the neuter pronoun meaning “anything”: quidlibet, instead of the adjectival form quodlibet.

    Quilibet, too, has related adverbs: ubilibet, quolibet…

    7) Aliqui, aliqua, aliquod basically means “some” rather than “any”.


    Hoc efficiam aliquo pacto = “I’ll achieve this by some means.”

    Da mihi aliquod exemplum = “Give me some example.”
    In some cases, it can also translate to a bare indefinite article, “a(n)”. That could be done in the second example above.

    Aliqui libri erant in mensa = "There were some books on the table."

    However, there are occasional situations where it’s possible (or even idiomatically preferable) to translate it as “any”.

    After some conjunctions, mostly si, nisi, num, and ne (a useful mnemonics can be found in the first post in this thread),the ali- is regularly dropped so that the word is turned into qui, qua, quod. That, as it happens, is the most frequent case where it will translate to “any”.


    Si quem meum librum legere vis, libenter ad te mittam = “If you wish to read any (or some or a) book of mine, I’ll gladly send it to you.”

    Me rogavit num quam mihi iniuriam fecisses = “He asked me if you had done me any (or some or a) wrong.”

    Thesaurum diligenter custodiebat ne qui nummus deperiret = “He guarded the treasure carefully lest any (or some or a) coin be lost.”

    There would still be cases where “any” would be wrong or at least not the best translation choice, so generally with nisi (e.g. Nisi quod mihi auxilium tuleris, moriar = “Unless you bring me some help, I’ll die”) but not only (e.g. Timebat ne qua sibi calamitas accideret = “He was afraid that some disaster would happen to him”).

    There are some conjunctions other than si, nisi, num and ne after which aliqui becomes qui relatively often, like ubi, cum and suchlike relative adverbs of time and place. It also happens after the relative pronoun qui, quae, quod. However, it’s a bit less systematical than after si, nisi, num, and ne.

    It also occasionally happens that the ali- is retained after si, nisi, num, or ne, mostly when the “some” is particularly emphatic.

    There are times when qui and ullus are both possible. For example, Thesaurum diligenter custodiebat ne qui nummus deperiret could also be Thesaurum diligenter custodiebat ne ullus nummus deperiret. The difference, though, is that ullus is rather more emphatic. The sentence with ullus is insisting more strongly on the “any”, like “He guarded the treasure carefully lest any coin (at all, at all!) should be lost”.

    8) Aliquis and aliquid are the pronominal versions of aliqui and aliquod respectively. So aliquis basically means “someone” and aliquid basically means “something”. Aliqua can be used alone to mean “some woman”, but is less frequent than the masculine version, for the same reasons I explained as to why pronominal ulla and quaevis/quaelibet are less common than their respective masculine versions.


    Aliquem audivi canentem = “I heard someone singing.”

    Aliquam ducere volo = “I want to marry someone (some woman).”

    Aliquid tibi dabo = “I’ll give you something.”

    Similarly to aliqui occasionally translating to “any” despite basically meaning “some”, aliquis/aliquid can occasionally translate to “anyone/anything”.

    Aliquis/aliquid also tends to lose its ali- in the same situations as aliqui does, and that is also the most common case where it will translate to “anyone/anything”.


    Si quis me tetigerit, exclamabo = “If anyone (or someone) touches me, I’ll scream.”

    Delituit ne quis se deprehenderet = “He hid lest anyone (or someone) should catch him.”

    Oro te ne quid stulte facias = “I beg you not to do anything (or something, in theory, though it sounds worse than in the other sentences) silly.”

    There are times when quis/quid and quisquam/quicquam are both possible. If you replace quis/quid in the three sentences above with quisquam/quicquam, the sentences will still be correct; however, quisquam/quicquam is more emphatic, so there will be more stress on “anyone/anything”. For example, Si quisquam me tetigerit, exclamabo is more like “If anyone (at all, at all!) touches me, I’ll scream”.

    Aliquis has related adverbs: alicubi = "somewhere", "in some place"; aliquo = "somewhere (with motion)", "to some place"; aliquando = "sometime"... All of these tend to lose their ali's in the same contexts as aliquis.

    9) Quispiam, quaepiam, quodpiam means “some (unspecified)”, and can sometimes translate to “any”. It is more common in conditional, relative, temporal and similar clauses, but is occasionally found in other types of clauses too.


    Quid si hoc quispiam voluit deus? (Ter. Eu. 875) = “What if some god has wanted this?”

    Cum quempiam librum legere volebat, bibliothecam petebat = “When he wanted to read some/a/any book, he went to the library.”

    Nostine medicum quempiam? = “Do you know some/a/any doctor?”

    10) The pronominal version of quispiam remains quispiam in the masculine (“someone”, “some unspecified person”, “anyone”) and quaepiam in the feminine (“some (unspecified) woman”, “any woman”) but differs in the neuter, where it is quippiam or quidpiam, meaning “something”, “some unspecified thing”, “anything”. Like the adjectival version in 9), it’s found mostly in conditional, relative, temporal and similar clauses, but sometimes occurs in other types of clauses.


    Si mihi quippiam voles dicere, domum venito = “If you want to tell me something/anything, come to my house.”

    Terenti numne similem dicent quempiam? (Afran. Com. 29)= “Will they say that anyone is like Terence?”

    Quaeret quispiam: “Quid? …” (Cic. Arch. 15) = “Someone will ask: ‘What? …’”

    I would say that quispiam (both as an adjective and as a pronoun) overlaps partly with (ali)quis, ullus and quisquam; it’s somewhere in between.For example, the first sentence above could have been Si quid mihi voles dicere, domum venito. This version with quid has a more “neutral” sound to it. The second sentence would still be grammatically correct with quemquam (or, less commonly, ullum) instead of quempiam. Indeed, on the face of it, it seems to me that quemquam would have been a bit more common than quempiam here. The third sentence could have used aliquis instead of quispiam.

    Quispiam has a related adverb quopiam = "somewhere (with motion)", "to some place".


    In the beginning of this post, I wrote that English “any” and its compounds were used mostly in three broad sorts of senses: “any (at all)”, “any (you like/random)” and “any (indefinite – verging on “some”)”. I thought it might be useful to summarize here which Latin words generally fall under which category.

    1) Any/anyone/anything (at all) = ullus, quisquam, arguably sometimes quispiam.

    2) Any/anyone/anything (you like), any (random), any (random) person, any (random) thing = quivis, quilibet.

    3) Some/any (indefinite) person or thing = aliqui, aliquis, qui, quis, quispiam (the first four being more default/neutral).

    (For brevity’s sake, I’m giving only the masculine lemma forms here. For more information on feminine and neuter forms and which forms are adjectival or pronominal, see the respective sections above.)

    Note 1

    Pronominal masculine forms of quis and its derivatives (aliquis, quisquam) can also be used adjectivally with masculine nouns instead of the adjectival form qui and its derivatives (aliqui).


    Aliquis miles me adivit = “Some/A soldier came to me.”

    Dubito num quis finis sit huic rei futurus = “I wonder if there will be any end to this matter.”

    Num quisquam rex non tyrannus fuit?= “Has any king not been a tyrant?”

    However, barring some rare exceptions, the same is not the case with the neuter form quid and its derivatives. For example, you shouldn’t say aliquid facinus for “some misdeed” or si quid templum… for “if any temple…”. You’d need the adjectival forms aliquod and quod.

    Note 2

    In late Latin, aliqui, aliqua, aliquod and aliquis, aliquid can translate as "any/anyone/anything" more often than they do in classical Latin, because some late Latin authors tend to use them in situations where the shorter forms qui and quis or ullus or quisquam would have been more expected in classical Latin.


    I hope this post has been helpful. Don’t worry or be depressed if it still feels a bit fuzzy and if you can’t remember every detail of what I’ve said. It’s quite a lot to take in at a time and, depending on your level of Latin, it may be too much. If so, focus on the most salient points and bear in mind that, if you carry on with Latin and get to read a lot of it, you’ll probably acquire a feel for the finer points then. You can always come back to this post (or other resources on the topic, for example good dictionaries that provide examples) to check something now and then, too.

    Here’s a little exercise for those of you who wish to test your understanding. Fill in the blanks with the appropriate Latin translations of any/anyone/anything. Note that more than one answer is often possible, but different words would often convey different nuances. You’ll find the most classically likely answers in the spoiler below, plus a few less usual ones (when an option is less usual, I've indicated it).

    1) Has this dog bitten anyone?
    Num __________ hic canis momordit?

    2) I don’t think he has any books.
    Non puto illum __________ libros habere.

    3) If I've done anything wrong, please tell me what it is.
    Si __________ perperam feci, dic, quaeso, quid sit.

    4) Take any of these fruits.
    __________ ex his pomis sume.

    5) The general ordered the soldiers not to hurt anyone.
    Dux militibus imperavit ne __________ nocerent.

    6) Any soldier would covet this booty.
    Hanc praedam concupiscat __________ miles.

    7) Do you really think anyone is dearer to me than you are?
    Num putas mihi __________ te esse cariorem?

    8) When anyone spoke to him, he pretended not to hear.
    Ille cum __________ alloquebatur, se non audire simulabat.

    9) I’m ready to do anything.
    Paratus sum __________ facere.

    10) He was always watching the soldiers to make sure they didn't commit any misdeed.
    Milites semper servabat ne __________ facinus committerent.

    1) Has this dog bitten anyone?
    Num quem (the most neutral/default option)/quemquam (more emphatic; like “Has this dog bitten anyone at all?” Even though the use of “num” already implies some incredulity, the person using “quemquam” here would sound even more incredulous as to the possibility that the dog might have bitten anyone)/quempiam/ullum (less common) hic canis momordit?

    2) I don’t think he has any books.
    Non puto illum ullos libros habere.
    NOTE: If the "any" here were unemphatic, it could be dropped from the Latin translation altogether: "Non puto illum libros habere" = "I don't think he has books" or "I don't think he has any books" but without emphasis on "any".

    3) If I've done anything wrong, please tell me what it is.
    Si quid (the most neutral/default option)/quicquam (is more emphatic; sounds more incredulous)/quippiam perperam feci, dic, quaeso, quid sit.

    4) Take any of these fruits.
    Quaevis/quaelibet ex his pomis sume.

    5) The general ordered the soldiers not to hurt anyone.
    Dux militibus imperavit ne cui (the most neutral/default option)/cuiquam (more emphatic)/ulli (emphatic too)/cuipiam nocerent.

    6) Any soldier would covet this booty.
    Hanc praedam concupiscat quivis/quilibet miles.

    7) Do you really think anyone is dearer to me than you are?
    Num putas mihi quemquam/ullum (less common)/quempiam (somewhat less common too) te esse cariorem? NOTE: You could also have had "Num quem putas mihi te esse cariorem?", but with the word order dictated by the position of the blank, "quem" was unlikely: "Num putas mihi quem te esse cariorem" sounds awkward, not a very normal word order for prose.

    8) When anyone spoke to him, he pretended not to hear.
    Ille cum quisquam (emphatic; the idea being like “anyone at all, no matter who it was”)/ullus (emphatic too but unusual)/(ali)quis (more neutral; could as well translate to “someone”)/quispiam (could translate to “someone” too) alloquebatur, se non audire simulabat.

    9) I’m ready to do anything.
    Paratus sum quidvis/quidlibet facere.
    NOTE: This sort of idea can also be expressed in Latin by the literal equivalent of "everything". You could say "Paratus sum omnia facere", literally "I'm ready to do everything", and that would be close to "I'm ready to do anything".

    10) He was always watching the soldiers to make sure they didn’t commit any misdeed.
    Milites semper servabat ne quod (the most neutral/default option)/ullum (emphatic)/quodpiam facinus committerent.
    Last edited by Pacifica, Feb 20, 2019
  2. Dantius Homo Sapiens

    • Civis Illustris
    in orbe lacteo
    Also sometimes quicumque, especially in later writers, can be similar to quivis, right?
    Anyway, useful guide. Thanks.
  3. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris

    The OLD gives one example from Cicero and two from Livy, so it can even occasionally be found in classical Latin.

    Dantius knows this, but for the sake of others: the more usual meaning of quicumque is "anyone who", "whoever", that is, it's a relative, introducing a dependent clause, as in quicumque hunc librum leget delectabitur = "Anyone who reads this book/whoever reads this book will be delighted".
    You're welcome.

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