Any + other + noun

 

Q:

Here are two sentences. I don't know if both are right.

(a)

He is taller than any other boy in his class.

(b)

He is taller than any other boys in his class.

I am told that sentence (a) is often used and right. How about sentence (b)?

Thank you.

Left
[email protected]

A:

Both sentences are grammatically correct.

The question here is whether or not to use a singular noun or a plural noun in this comparison.

The choice is stylistic: does the writer want to compare his subject to one other (nonspecific) boy in the class, or to all of the boys in the class? The Grammar Exchange would probably use either the singular noun, as in your sentence (a):

He is taller than any other boy in his class;

or this alternative of sentence (b):

He is taller than any of the other boys in this class.

Using any of the with a plural noun compares the subject (he) to all the rest in a known, specific group. So, if you want to compare the boy to all the others in the group, this is a good way to do it.

Any other can be used with both singular and plural nouns, as in these examples:

Singular: Any other man would have opened the door for a lady.
Plural: I haven't met any other men who open doors for ladies.

Sometimes the choice of whether to use a singular or plural noun with any other is purely up to the writer and what he wants to say:

Singular: I'm looking for any other book I can find on this subject.
Plural: I'm looking for any other books I can find on this subject.

Is the writer looking for one other book or any number of other books? Only the writer can determine that. The writer can choose either sentence, according to what he or she wants to say.

(To see a related comment,
on "I wish she was/were," click here.)