Careful how you translate “żaden”

Mistakes are made when żaden is translated as “any” instead of “not … any”, “no”, “none” etc. Have a look at the following example:

WRONG
The exercise of this right is conditional upon the State Treasury having any shareholding in the Bank.

This sentence is incorrect and ambiguous, and could mean either of two things:

POSITIVE
The exercise of this right is conditional upon the State Treasury having a shareholding in the Bank.
NEGATIVE
The exercise of this right is conditional upon the State Treasury having no shareholding in the Bank.

Unlike żaden, “any” does not have a negative meaning; it only takes on a negative meaning when used with “not”, “never” etc.

Of course, the writer of this sentence meant the second, negative version. There are two possible ways of writing it:

RIGHT
The exercise of this right is conditional upon the State Treasury having no shareholding in the Bank.
ALSO RIGHT
The exercise of this right is conditional upon the State Treasury not having any shareholding in the Bank.

Here is another example of an incorrect use of “any”:

WRONG
He confirmed that any written opinion is not needed at this stage.

In this example the writer uses “any” instead of “no” and compounds the mistake by trying to use a double negative (which is a correct structure in Polish, but not in English). The sentence is basically meaningless.

WRONG AGAIN
He confirmed that no written opinion is not needed at this stage. (Double negative)
RIGHT
He confirmed that no written opinion is needed at this stage.
ALSO RIGHT
He confirmed that a written opinion is not needed at this stage.

The next example shows how using “any” instead of “no” can produce a sentence with the opposite meaning to that intended. Both these sentences are grammatically correct, but common sense tells us that the first one does not have the intended meaning (here “any” means “every”).

WRONG
Documents containing client data should be stored in a way that any unauthorised person can access them.
RIGHT
Documents containing client data should be stored in a way that no unauthorised person can access them.

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