Any Time or Anytime: How to Choose the Right Word

'Anytime' crept into common usage recently, but 'any time' is the safer choice

No Parking Any Time Sign in a Hedge

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If you're trying to choose between the words any time vs. anytime, it's interesting to know that just a century ago, you wouldn't have even had a choice. Back then, any time people wrote, they always used the two-word version. There was no anytime. The word is a contraction that just happened and then became adopted. 

How to Use Any Time

Written as two words, any time is a noun phrase that means "at no particular time" or "any amount of time." It indicates that something will probably happen soon, but an exact time can’t be stated.

 

Any time should be written as two words when it is used as an adverbial clause proceeded by the word at.  Examples:

  • The package is due to arrive at any time.
  • Because tensions between the two countries are high, violence could erupt at any time.

It is also written as a two-word phrase when any is used to modify the word time in sentences such as:

  • I won’t have any time to work on the project until next week.
  • If you have any time available, I'd love to meet for lunch this week.

Any time, written as two words, is always correct. It should always be written as two words in formal writing

How to Use Anytime

The word anytime is a contraction known as a casualism, which is the result of the informal usage of a grammatically incorrect word becoming widely accepted. Anytime is an adverb meaning "whenever" or "without a doubt." It is only correct when used as an adverb. Examples include: 

  • You can call me anytime.
  • The boxer said that he could defeat his opponent anytime.

Casualisms such as anytime frequently make their way into informal writing as they become more common in spoken language. However, they should never be used in formal writing. 

Although Merriam-Webster states that the first known usage of anytime was in 1926, there is some discrepancy among sources regarding the exact year the one-word version came into usage.

Examples

Here are several examples of any time vs. anytime being used, including some incorrect versions, to help you see the difference.

CorrectWe can leave anytime you're ready to go
CorrectWe can leave any time you're ready to go.
CorrectThe smoking volcano could erupt at any time.
IncorrectThe smoking volcano could erupt at anytime.
CorrectThe guest speaker didn't have any time to go over his notes.
IncorrectThe guest speaker didn't have anytime to go over his notes. 
CorrectBecause the cab driver took a wrong turn, we didn't have any time to say goodbye.
IncorrectBecause the cab driver took a wrong turn, we didn't have anytime to say goodbye.

How to Remember the Difference

A handy tip to help you determine if it’s OK to use anytime in informal writing is to determine if it can be replaced with the word whenever without changing the meaning of the sentence. If so, you can feel confident that you’ve used anytime correctly.

You can also try replacing anytime with another adverb such as cheerfully or quietly. If the sentence is still grammatically correct, it should be safe to use anytime. For example:

  • I play my guitar anytime.
  • I play my guitar cheerfully.
  • I play my guitar quietly.

Take a look at these facts to help you choose the right word to use:

  • Any time can function as either a noun phrase or an adverbial phrase.
  • Any time is always correct.
  • Anytime is always an adverb.
  • Anytime cannot follow a preposition such as at.
  • Use any time when referring to an amount of time.
  • Never use anytime in formal writing.

If you have doubts about which word to write, use the two-word version. It may sound formal or old-fashioned to your audience, but it is correct any time you use it.