The Grammar of Everyday Phrases: Part 1

Sep 23, 2022 | Posted by Jennifer

Any time or anytime? Every day or everyday? A while or awhile? There are so many of these types of homophones. They’re easy enough to use in speech, but have you ever wondered which is the correct way to spell them in a sentence? Hopefully this brief blog series will help you keep them straight. The first pairing we’re going to take a peek at is anytime and any time. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

First off, let’s set the stage. Knowing whether to spell the word as a single word or as two depends upon knowing a bit of grammar. If you know what job the word or words are supposed to do, it will make the spelling task much easier. The compound word anytime functions as an adverb and tells when something is happening. Adverbs add information to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They tell how, when, where, why, or to what extent. Here’s an example of the adverb anytime used in a sentence: I can meet you anytime that works best for you. When? Anytime.

For the grammar lovers out there, here’s an extra bit of information. Any time (an adjective/noun combination) can substitute for anytime when it is being used as an adverbial phrase, which is why this is also technically correct: I can meet you any time that works best for you. The phrase any time is functioning adverbially. It’s explaining when. What does this all mean? If you’re in doubt about how to spell it, write it as two words. That’s the safe bet. Take note, however, that it must always be written as two words if the phrase is functioning as a noun.

Here are some examples to help clarify things.

  • I can meet you at any time.
    • Notice that any time appears in a prepositional phrase, which signals that time is the object of the preposition, a noun.
  • Do you have any time on your calendar to meet with me?
    • This noun phrase functions as the direct object of the sentence: You do have any (adj.) time (n.)….
  • Anytime I need a bit of a boost, I brew up a cup of my favorite black tea.
    • This works because anytime is functioning as an adverb explaining when.
  • Any time I need a bit of a boost, I brew up a cup of my favorite black tea.
    • This alternative is also technically correct.

Here is a chart for handy review:











Try your hand at these sentences to see if you can figure out which construction is correct. Answers are provided at the bottom of the blog post. Consider how the word is functioning to determine if it should be expressed as one word or two.

  1. Martha volunteered at the pet adoption center ________________ she could. (any time or anytime)
  2. If there was _______________ left before the bell rang, Mrs. Nelson would share a poem with her students. (any time or anytime)
  3. At ____________ of the day, the city was filled with bustling people out on the streets. (any time or anytime)


Over the next few weeks, we will examine more of these everyday constructions that tend to be confusing, so watch for these! Hopefully, they will help you feel confident about how to spell them in your writing.

  1. anytime or any time 2. any time 3. any time

Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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