One Word or Two: Anytime, Any Time

Do you wonder about the word anytime at any time? Anytime I stop to think about a word before I write it, wondering whether it is one word or two, it seems like a good topic to write about. If it takes me any time to think about it, I assume you may be thinking about it too.

That paragraph illustrates the use of anytime and any time.

Any amount of time = any time.

Do you have any time to review this piece?
We spent hardly any time in Dallas.
He doesn't have any time for us now that he has a girlfriend.

Whenever, at any time = anytime.

Call me anytime.
Anytime this happens, let me know.
I can meet anytime on Friday.

The correct choice after the preposition at is always the two-word form. Or leave out the preposition and use the one-word form. (Leaving out the at seems to be an American habit.)

I can meet with you at any time. (Compare: I can meet with you anytime.)
Did you talk with him at any time? (Compare: Did you talk with him anytime?)
I am free at any time between 1 and 4 p.m. (Compare: I am free anytime between 1 and 4 p.m.)

In case you are spending any time wondering whether I made up these distinctions, I didn't. I checked Garner's Modern American Usage, Fowler's Modern English Usage (Revised Third Edition by R.W. Burchfield), and The Gregg Reference Manual. The other reference books on my shelf did not address the topic. 

If you have any time to comment, do!

Lynn
Syntax Training

P.S. For more solutions to confusing word problems, see my 60 Quick Word Fixes.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Lynn:

    I would add to your recommendations the book “Painless Grammar” by Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D. It’s an excellent book for those who skipped English class in mind or body.

  2. Mike, thanks for the recommendation. I have the book, but I confess I haven’t looked at it closely. Your suggestion encourages me to dig in.

  3. Thank you. Your explanation hit the spot to answer my immediate question and now I’ve discovered your site, I plan to explore it some more. I’m an English trainer in France and the topics you address are very pertinent for me. I’ll be back ANYTIME I have similar questions.

  4. I’ve read that “anytime” is an American casualism. And, although “anytime” is often compressed into a single word by analogy with “anywhere” and similar words, “any time” is traditionally a two-word phrase.

  5. Krista, I believe you are asking about “timecards.”

    I am on vacation this week and away from my reference books. However, a quick check of online resources indicates that “time cards” (two words) is more common.

    Lynn

  6. Thank you Lynn.

    I was replying to a business e-mail and I couldn’t figure out what was the right choice for my scenario.

    Your explanation was top notch, thank you!

    Sergio

  7. This is the second time I have came across your website while looking for an answer to tricky spelling usage. Your posts have been very helpful and the examples are clear and concise. Thanks again and I’ll be sure to return next time I need help.

  8. Hi, Jon. Thank you for your positive words. I am glad to be helpful.

    You may want to purchase the desktop version of “60 Quick Word Fixes,” which I mentioned at the end of the blog post. It can keep you out of word-choice trouble.

    Lynn

  9. Hi, Lynn.

    You have clarified the difference between the two very well. As an American copywriter, I can vouch for the fact that the one-word version of “anytime” is quickly, and unfortunately, taking precedent over the two-word version in any and all grammatical situations. In fact, our version of Microsoft Word now corrects you if you do not use the one word version. The same can be said for the word(s) “some time” and “sometime”. This is regrettable, because there is clearly a distinction between the two, as you have shown.

  10. Hi, Ken. Thank you for your intelligent comment.

    I just used my Word 2010 grammar and spelling checker to check a few sentences with both versions of “anytime.” It did not flag any of them, whether correct or incorrect.

    Perhaps you can adjust your grammar and spelling checker so it does not flag non-errors.

    Lynn

  11. Lynn
    Your explanations are very clear. Thank you.
    Can I ask you other questions if I have about grammar?

  12. Hi, Johnny. Please search the blog first. There is a search box in the upper right corner.

    If you cannot find the answer to your question, ask it. I will do my best to answer with the time I have available.

    Lynn

  13. can I answer “thank you” with “any time” ?
    what the differences between “you’re welcome” and “any time” ?

    thank you 🙂

  14. Thank you! I did, indeed, stop and consider the difference before writing. (And continued to write after finding this article!)

Comments are closed.