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What is the difference between ein beliebig- and einzeln-? Both mean 'any' but when are they used?

  1. Du kannst einen beliebigen Knopf drücken.

  2. Du kannst einen einzelnen Knopf drücken.

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Who claims that "einzeln" means "any"? It doesn't. Its meaning is "single", "individual". – Em1 Dec 4 '13 at 22:46
The first sentence means "an arbitrary button". The second sentence is not correct, "einzigen Knopf" is more appropriate. Both mean single but in a different context. "Einzig" in total and "einzeln" with multiple elements. For example: "einen einzelnen Knopf pro Formular". – Tim Schmelter Dec 4 '13 at 23:23
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well, I don't really see how those words could be related. But strictly speaking the question makes sense, because the difference does exist – and is huge!

  • beliebigen Knopf drücken means that you don't need to choose a criterion to press the button. A random choice is allowed.

  • einzeln, on the other hand, stresses the fact that pressing a single button will work – just as pressing many will:

    Du kannst einen einzelnen Knopf drücken (und das reicht, um den Bildschirm zu entsperren).

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