Any Time vs. 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" and "anytime," it's interesting to note 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 was 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 preceded 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. 

Merriam-Webster lists the first known usage of "anytime" as 1822.

Examples

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

Correct We can leave anytime you're ready to go.
Correct We can leave any time you're ready to go.
Correct The smoking volcano could erupt at any time.
Incorrect The smoking volcano could erupt at anytime.
Correct The guest speaker didn't have any time to go over his notes.
Incorrect The guest speaker didn't have anytime to go over his notes.
Correct Because the cab driver took a wrong turn, we didn't have any time to say goodbye.
Incorrect Because 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 it 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 always correct.

Sources

  • "Anytime." Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, Merriam-Webster.
  • Garner, Bryan. "Anytime." Garner's Modern English Usage, 4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 58-59.
  • Ticak, Marko. "Anytime vs. Any Time." Plagiarism Checker | Grammarly, 7 Apr. 2017.