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Cualquier, Cualquiera, and Cualesquiera

In one of Yabla's videos, Spanish veterinarian, Jesús López, uses two interesting and very similar words:

 

Cualquiera puede traer cualquier animal.

Anyone can bring any animal.

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

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The Spanish words, cualquiera (anyone) and cualquier (any), may look very much alike, but their functions happen to be very different. While cualquiera is an indefinite pronoun, cualquier is an indefinite adjective.

For that reason, whenever the adjective, cualquier, is used, it must be accompanied by a noun, e.g. cualquier animal (any animal). Let's take a look at 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

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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

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On the other hand, the pronoun, cualquiera (anyone), should not be used to accompany a noun, but rather to substitute it, as cualquiera means "anyone." For example, you can use the pronoun, cualquiera, 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:
 

No cualquiera podía ser caballero. O sea...

Not just anyone could be a knight. I mean...

Caption 17, Antonio Vargas - Artista - ilustración

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Now, to further complicate the matter, Spanish has a common plural form for both the adjective, cualquier, and the pronoun, cualquiera, which is cualesquiera. Although the use of this plural form for both the adjective and the pronoun is uncommon in everyday speech, let's go ahead and transform the previous examples into their plural forms as an excercise. You will note that their English translations are identical to their singular equivalents. 

For the adjective, cualquier:

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

For the pronoun, cualquiera:

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

* As a side note, a shorter version for the adjective, cualesquier, also exists, but this is even less common and can generally only be found in old literature.

Finally, and very interestingly, 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 in this manner, the adjective always comes after the noun rather than before it. 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 mi padre. / This is not just any dog. It's my father'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, can mean "a nobody" and "a prostitute" (or low class or sexually promiscous woman), respectively. You can find an example in our Argentinian telenovela, Muñeca Brava:

 

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

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This is the end of the lesson. Thank you for reading, and don't forget to send us you comments and suggestions.

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