‘Cualquier’ vs ‘Cualquiera’

Having problems with ‘cualquier’ and ‘cualquiera’?

Yes, they look and sound pretty similar, but don’t get your knickers in a twist just yet …

We use both ‘cualquier’ and ‘cualquiera’ to talk about indeterminate people or objects (i.e., people or objects that are not clearly know or have yet to be identified).

‘Cualquier’ is always an adjective and goes BEFORE the noun, whereas ‘cualquiera’ always goes AFTER the noun when used as an adjective. ‘Culaquiera‘ can also be a pronoun (i.e., the subject or object of a sentence).

An easy way to choose between the two is to think about the next word in the sentence: if it’s a noun, go with ‘cualquier’, and if it’s any other part of speech or the last word of a sentence, ‘cualquiera’ should be your word of choice!


When to use ‘cualquier’


We use ‘cualquier’ to say that all the possible options are as probable or as suitable as each other. In this context, it’s used in the same way as the English word ‘any’.

It may also imply that choosing one specific thing isn’t really important.

REMEMBER – cualquier’ is an adjective, and it ALWAYS goes before the noun it’s modifying. Unlike other adjectives, you don’t need to add or replace letters for it to agree with the noun (i.e., la casa roja / los pájaros rojos).

Here are some examples –

No pienso mucho en cómo me visto. Me pongo unos jeans y cualquier playera.

I don´t think much about the way I dress. I put on some jeans and any old t-shirt.


Juan – ¿Qué quieren comer?

Adolfo – Cualquier platillo sin carne estaría bien.



Juan – What do you want to eat?

Adolfo – Any dish without meat will do.


We also use ‘cualquier’ to say that something is true of all the options in a group. Again, it works as an adjective and must go before a noun.

Notice this use is different from the previous one in that we can rephrase the examples using either ‘todos’ or ‘todas’.

Cualquier tren te* lleva a Moscú.

Any train will take you to Moscow.



Cualquier jabón mata al virus.

Any soap kills the virus.



Cualquier enfermedad puede ser peligrosa.

Any disease can be dangerous.

*Erika’s top tip –te’ here is functioning as a direct object pronoun, but it has a number of other uses! It’s also important not to get te’ muddled up with ‘’ or ‘tu!


When to use ‘Cualquiera’


We use ‘cualquiera’ as a pronoun (a word used to replace a noun) referring to an undetermined person.

It can normally be translated as ‘anyone’ or ‘everyone’.  

Cualquiera puede aprender un idioma extranjero.

Anyone can learn a foreign language.



Cualquiera pudo haberse llevado la carta.

Anyone could have taken the letter.



Cualquiera estaría de acuerdo en que es una buena idea.

Anyone would agree that it’s a good idea.



Eso le pasa a cualquiera.

That happens to everyone.



Eso lo sabe cualquiera.

Everyone knows that.


When we use ‘cualquiera’ to mean ‘anyone’ with a relative clause (a part of a sentence that provides extra information), we always use the subjunctive.

This is because we are talking about an undetermined person.

Cualquiera que sepa nadar puede llegar a la otra orilla.

Anyone who can swim can get to the other side.



Cualquiera que tuviera un coche podía viajar a la aldea.

Anyone who had a car could travel to the village.



Cualquiera que venga a la ciudad verá nuestro anuncio.

Anyone who comes to the city will see our ad.


…  but it can’t always be translated to ‘anyone’ or ‘everyone’!

Cualquiera’ is never a substitute for the English ‘anyone’ or ‘everyone’ in questions or negative sentences.

¿Conoces a alguien que sepa hablar japonés?

Do you know anyone who can speak Japanese?



Hoy no he hablado con nadie.

I haven’t talked to anyone today.


We also use ‘cualquiera’ (again as a pronoun) to refer to undetermined things.

In this context, it could be translated as ‘whichever’ (when referring to a choice), ‘either’ (when referring to two things) or ‘all / any of them’.

¿Quieres la bufanda roja o la verde? – Cualquiera está bien.

Do you want the red scarf or the green one? – Whichever. Both are fine.



Mira estos cuadros. Cualquiera se vería bien en la sala.

Look at those pictures. All of them would look good in the living room.


Meaning of ‘un cualquier’ / ‘una cualquiera

When people use the articles ‘un’ or ‘una’ before ‘cualquiera’, they’re generally referring to a person in a derogatory way.

The phrase ‘Es un cualquiera’ basically translates to ‘He / She’s a nobody’. Yeah, not a very nice thing to say …

If you’re in a despicable mood and want to go for the jugular, you can even say ‘un cualquier cualquiera‘ which is even more perjorative.

Oh, and ‘una cualquiera’ almost always refers to a sex worker.

Manuel no es un cualquiera, conoce al gobernador.

Manuel isn’t a nobody, he knows the governor.



Y entonces su* amiga la llamó una cualquiera.

And then her friend called her a prostitute.

*Erika’s top tip – if you’re unsure as to the difference between su’ and ‘sus, be sure to give our (super helpful!) article on the topic a quick once over!



If a noun is placed between the article (‘un’ or ‘una’) and ‘cualquiera’, the phrase takes on a different meaning and is slightly less derogatory –

Un hombre cualquiera = An ordinary man

Un trabajo cualquiera = A run-of-the-mill job



AND if the sentence is negative, ‘un / una + noun + cualquiera’ translates to something along the lines of ‘not (just) any old’ –

No es un micrófono cualquiera. – It´s not just any old microphone.

No es un superhéroe cualquiera – She´s not just any old superhero.


‘Cualquier cosa’ in English

Cualquier cosa’ is a phrase we use when we don’t care about a particular thing / situation. It can normally be translated to ‘any old thing’.

¿Qué vas a decir? – No sé. Cualquier cosa.

What will you say? – Dunno. Any old thing.



Voy a enviarles cualquier cosa.

I’ll just send them any old thing.



Dice cualquier cosa y dice que es poesía. Eso es prosa cortada.

He just says any old thing and calls it poetry. That’s cut up prose.


Meaning of ‘Cualquier hijo de vecino’

This is a fun phrase.

It literally means ‘any of the neighbour’s sons’, and translates to ‘any Tom, Dick, or Harry’. It’s used to refer to a “normal” person who doesn´t have any special training / skills in a specific subject.

No puedes creerle a cualquier hijo de vecino. Habla con un médico. Un médico de verdad.

You can’t just believe what any Tom, Dick or Harry says. Talk to a doctor. A real one.



El problema, y lo bueno, de las redes sociales es que cualquier hijo de vecino puede expresar su opinión.

The problem AND the good thing about social networks is that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can say what he/she thinks.


Final thoughts

Now you know how to use ‘cualquier’ and ‘cualquiera’ in a number of different contexts (yippee!).

I’ve put together a quick test so that you can test your newfound knowledge!

Just remember to use ‘cualquier’ before a noun and you’ll be gold.

Oh, and if you’re still in the mood for Spanish grammar, definitely check out our article on que‘ vs ‘lo que next!


Cualquier’ vs ‘cualqueira’ quiz

Complete the sentences with ‘cualquier’ or ‘cualquiera

1. ¿Nos vemos el lunes o el martes?    – ___________ día está bien.

2. ___________ sabe que Plutón no es un planeta.

3. ___________ Uber te va a cobrar más de cincuenta pesos.

4. ___________ puede entrar. Es gratis.

5. ___________ entiende esto. Es muy simple.

6. No podemos contratar a ___________ hijo de vecino. Es un puesto importante.

7. ¿Qué gorro quieres, el azul o el amarillo? – ___________ está bien.

8. ___________ que pase por esta calle va a ver nuestra tienda.

9. No sé qué contestar. Voy a decirles ___________ cosa.

10. ___________ computadora sirve para escribir documentos.


Answers

1. Cualquier

2. Cualquiera

3. Cualquier

4. Cualquiera

5. Cualquiera

6. cualquier

7. Cualquiera

8. Cualquiera

9. cualquier

10. Cualquier

Carlos is a Spanish and English teacher. He studied Language and Literature and has a diploma in teaching Spanish as a foreign language from the prestigious National Autonomous University of Mexico.

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