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"anytime" vs "any time"

Asked by [ Admin ] , Edited by Peter Mortensen [ Admin ]

What is the difference between "anytime" and "any time"?

For instance, which would be best suited in the following sentence:

Will you be visiting anytime / any time soon?

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donald remero [ Moderator ]

Consider some facts about "anytime":

Merriam-Webster lists first usage at 1926. It does not appear anywhere in the OED Second Edition (last supplemented in 1987?). A Little Oxford Dictionary I have from 1987 doesn't list it either. So, at least one thing is clear: this compound is a comparatively new form of accepted usage.

Merriam-Webster defines "anytime" as "at any time whatever." American Heritage defines it as "at any time."

In cases where "anytime" can be used, you can equally communicate the meaning using "any time" instead. In the specific example you have, I believe a case could be made for either. But the more conservative choice is definitely "Will you be visiting any time soon?"

The best usage for "anytime" I can think of would be in the case of the Beatles song "Any Time At All." But, as in illustration of the point, "anytime at all" is not in fact the way the title was published.

Take this example: "Any time is fine with me." It is possible to say that this means that "Any time on the clock is fine with me. Two, four, whatever. Let me know."

In contrast, we could say that "Anytime is fine with me" means not so much that any time on the clock is fine, but that anytime whenever, if ever, in the next week or month or years is just fine. If this is a meaning that you want to emphasize, then that's when "anytime" is acceptable. BUT, the alternate use of "any time" certainly does not exclude this meaning either.

We are about as close as we can be to "making distinctions that don't have a difference" with this one. I say: if in doubt, use the more conservative "any time"; and if you are writing, say, for the Financial Times, just "any time" every time and don't even think about it.

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