Any Time or Anytime: When to Use Each 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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Any is an Old English word with Germanic roots meaning one, a, an, or some. Time also has a Germanic origin. Its early variations referred to an hour or a division, extent, or point.

Less than a century ago, writers always used the two-word version: any time. Although Miriam-Webster states that the first known usage of anytime was in 1926, there is some discrepancy regarding the exact year the one-word version came into usage.

The Oxford English Dictionary has several instances of the word anytime used as early as 1912. However, with each of these occurrences, it was used only in example phrases for other words and did not have its own entry. 

The Origin of Anytime: A Casualism Slips Into Everyday Use

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.

Another example of this type of contraction is the word ahold. Although incorrect, this word has gained widespread usage in phrases such as, “I’ve been trying to get ahold of you since yesterday.” It should be written as two words, a hold, or the a should be left out entirely. 

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

How to Use Any Time

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

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” or "If you have any time available, I'd love to meet for lunch next week."

Any time should always be written as two words in formal writing.

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. Two examples are:

  • The celebrity will arrive at any time.
  • Because tensions between the two countries are high, violence could erupt at any time.

Any time, written as two words, is always correct. When in doubt use any time

How to Use Anytime

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.

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

However, if you have doubts, use the two-word version.

It may sound formal or old-fashioned to your audience, but it is correct any time you use it. 

Examples of Any Time and Anytime

CorrectWe can leave anytime you're ready to go
CorrectWe can leave any time you're ready to go.
CorrectYou can visit us anytime you'd like.
CorrectYou can visit us any time you'd like.
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

You can't go wrong with any time, but if you're considering using the word anytime and are unsure if it's correct, remember these facts:

  • 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