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Cualquier, Cualquiera, and Cualesquiera

In one of our new videos, Spanish vet Jesús López uses two interesting and similar words:

Cualquiera puede traer cualquier animal

Anyone can bring any animal

Caption 8, Centro de Recuperación de la Fauna Salvaje Veterinario Jesús López - Part 1

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The Spanish words cualquiera (anyone) and cualquier (any) may have similar meanings but very different functions. Cualquiera (anyone) is an indefinite pronoun and cualquier is an indefinite adjective.

So, whenever you use the adjective cualquier, you have to make sure to accompany it with a noun: cualquier animal (any animal). Study these examples:

 

En cualquier caso, los datos de España no son nada alentadores.

In any case, the data from Spain is not encouraging at all.

Captions 27-28, 3R Campaña de reciclaje - Part 1

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Mira los niños, juegan con globos de cualquier color

Look at the kids, they play with balloons of any color

Caption 9, Café Tacuba Mediodía

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¿Puede venir cualquier persona aquí? -Sí.

Can any person come here? -Yes.

Caption 5, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 7

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On the other hand, you use the pronoun cualquiera (anyone) not to accompany a noun but to substitute it; cualquiera means "any person." For example, you can use the pronoun cualquiera (anyone) to substitute the phrase cualquier persona in the previous example:

¿Puede venir cualquiera aquí? -Sí.
Can anyone come here? -Yes.

Here is another example containing the pronoun cualquiera (anyone):
 

No cualquiera podía ser caballero. O sea...

Not just anyone could be a knight. That is...

Caption 17, Antonio Vargas - Artista ilustración - Part 2

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Now, Spanish has a plural form for both the adjective cualquier (any) and the pronoun cualquiera (anyone): cualesquiera. The use of this plural form (for both the adjective and the pronoun) is not very common in everyday common speech, however. Let's transform the previous examples into their plural forms anyway. The English translation remains the same:

For the adjective cualquier (any):

¿Pueden venir cualesquiera personas aquí? -Sí.*
Can any person come here? -Yes.

For the pronoun cualquiera (anyone):

No cualesquiera podían ser caballeros.
Not just anyone could be a knight.

*For the adjective, by the way, there is also a shorter version: cualesquier, but this is even less common; you will only find it in old literary texts.

Finally, and this is very interesting, there is one instance in which the word cualquiera (and its plural cualesquiera) can be used as a qualitative adjective meaning "insignificant" or "irrelevant." When used this way, the adjective always comes after the noun, never before. This use is equivalent to the English expression "any old" or "just any."  Let's see an example. 
 

Sólo espera, que hoy no será un día cualquiera

Just wait, because today won't be any old day

Caption 49, Cuarto poder Aquí no se está jugando

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This adjective is most commonly used in negative phrases:

Este no es un perro cualquiera; es el perro de Hitler. | This is not just any dog. It's Hitler's dog.
No era un tipo cualquiera; era el jefe de la tribu. | He wasn't just any guy. He was the tribe's chief.

By extension, however unfairly, the expressions un cualquiera and una cualquiera mean "a nobody" and "a prostitute," respectively. You can find an example in our Argentinian telenovela Muñeca Brava (translations vary):

 

Pero a mí no me va a ofender porque yo no soy una cualquiera.

But you're not going to disrespect me because I am not a floozy.

Captions 83-84, Muñeca Brava 43 La reunión - Part 6

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