“I don’t have any time today. We can meet anytime next week.”
When a two-word phrase has a one-word variant, it can cause confusion for both native speakers and students learning English. One such example is every day vs. everyday: every day is a time expression that usually appears at the beginning or end of a sentence, while everyday is an adjective that appears before a noun. Another slightly more complicated example is any time vs. anytime. Is there a meaning difference? What are the usage rules for these two expressions?
If you use British English, the answer is easy! Always use any time (because anytime is not widely accepted).
If you use American English, it’s a bit more complicated. Basically, if preceded by a preposition, a negative word, or a question word, use any time. In all other cases, use anytime.
Think of any time as a quantity of time. This determiner + noun can follow a preposition (usually at) or be used in a question or negative sentence (any almost always takes the place of some in these cases).
- Go ahead and start the project at any time.
- Do you have any time to meet with me today?
- She won’t have any time to prepare for the presentation.
Think of anytime as whenever. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the adverb anytime as “at any time whatever”. Anytime is most often used at the beginning or end of a sentence, but it can also follow a verb. Anytime is sometimes described as a simply a “casualism” of any time, but note that in American English, anytime is the more common form.
- Go ahead and start the project anytime.
- She will arrive anytime between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m.
- Anytime you need a friend, I’ll be there.
*Note that the first example of both sets have the same meaning—you can almost always use at any time or anytime with no difference in meaning.