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Lexical Battle: Any Time vs. Anytime

02 August 2017 26

I appointed a meeting with my colleague the other day and suddenly found myself paused when I was about to text her “...available for you any time on Tuesday.” Hold on. Should it be any time on Tuesday or anytime on Tuesday? So here I am, trying to figure out the difference between “any time” and “anytime.”

“Any time” used to be the standard two words in all contexts for a long time. But with a while, a conjugate form “anytime” becomes also widely accepted. Even though we won’t likely notice a difference between the two in speech, that small space makes these two words harder to write down.

So in what case we use “anytime” and “any time”?

If you start searching for the answer, you will probably find out that most dictionaries have only one word and it’s an adverb “anytime.”  Another word “any time” is considered more as an Americanism which is true because the word is especially common in American publications. However, it’s being used throughout the world and still looks more formal than its young homophone “anytime.” Let’s take a closer look at these tricky twins.

Anytime

As I mentioned above, “anytime” is an adverb that means “whenever” or “at any time” and doesn’t perform any other functions. You can use it like any other adverb, for example: text me whenever you need - text me often - text me anytime. However, “anytime” also can be used as a conjunction meaning “every time that.”

Whenever you stuck with this word and not sure whether it should be there or not, just try to switch it with any other adverb like “quickly” for example and if the adverb works and the sense of your context is right, then go for “anytime” as one word. You can make it two words, of course, but to some readers, it might still look a bit old-fashioned or more formal.

So here are a few examples of using “anytime” as an adverb:

  • We can talk anytime later.
  • Text me anytime you need something.
  • The bus should be leaving anytime shortly.

There is one important thing to remember about “anytime”: never use it with a preposition like “at” because the phrase “at any time” gets substituted by the word “anytime.”

Any Time

Just like the one-word “anytime,” its homophone “any time” also performs an adverb function, but it’s a noun phrase as well with a meaning similar to “any amount of time.” So if you’re talking about a particular amount of time then go for the two-word noun version. Example: Do you have any time to meet today?

However, when you face the adverbial phrase “at any time,”  there always should be two words because a preposition “at” must be followed by a noun or a noun phrase which is not apparently “anytime.” Example: I can meet with you at any time tomorrow.

Another case when you need to use the two-word form is in constructions like “I don’t have any time to meet” because “any” is an adjective here that modifies the noun “time,” and if you put these words together they won’t alter anything

Last but not least, is to remember that whenever you doubt, write “any time” as two words. It might look a bit old-fashioned or too formal, but it won’t be wrong for sure.

Summing up

Keep in mind, that the two-word “any time” is always the safer choice for you. So if you are writing any formal context and want to use “anytime” there, make sure it is an adverb. But there is a plenty of other suitable cases to write “anytime.” So let’s summarize the main rules of what and when to write:

  • If you need an adverb, you can use both “anytime” and any time.” Example: I am available anytime for you / I am available any time for you.
  • “Anytime” functions as an adverb only and means “any time whatsoever.”
  • “Any time” is a noun phrase that can function adverbially and means “any particular amount of time.”
  • These two constructions cannot be used interchangeably.

Congratulations! You’ve just updated your grammar! Let me know anytime in the comments if you have any specific questions or wait...at any time?

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