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What Does It Mean When You Say “Anytime”?

You have likely used “anytime” in your spoken language, such as in response to a friend thanking you for a lift. But do you know the correct use and spelling for this common utterance?

When you say “anytime,” it means you are referring to a time that you have not precisely defined or agreed upon. You can also use the word “anytime” colloquially as a standalone utterance, which has the same meaning as “you’re welcome.”

There are different contexts where we use “anytime,” and it is correct to spell “anytime” as one word, and there are others where it should be two words. Here, you’ll learn more about correctly using this deceptively simple English word.

What Does Saying “Anytime” Mean?

The word “anytime” is an adverb of time that refers to an unspecified period of time (source). Therefore, you can use “anytime” to refer to time in a very broad, general way. 

Consider these sentences:

  • You’re welcome to come round for dinner anytime.
  • We can meet anytime that suits you.
  • The weather forecast tells us this rain is not going away anytime soon.
  • The courier says my parcel might arrive anytime before noon tomorrow.

Notice that we use the word “anytime” in all these examples to show that we are referring to time, but without providing particulars, such as a date, year, day of the week, or time of day.

“Anytime” as an Abbreviation

You can also use “anytime” as a standalone expression in casual conversation. In this context, it can have the same meaning as in the examples above, but the single word stands in for a whole sentence.

Consider this example — imagine that you spent your weekend helping your friend fix her bike. As you leave, she might say, “Thank you so much for the help!” and you might respond, “Anytime!”

In this context, the single word “anytime” is a casual abbreviation or shortened expression. What you are really saying is something like, “I’d be happy to help you out with your bike anytime!” 

Consider these further examples and the sentences that could replace “anytime” without changing the meaning:

Q: Would you mind helping me with my homework?
A: Anytime!”
I’d be happy to help you with your homework anytime!
Q: Are you available to meet this client with me?
A: Anytime.
I am available to meet the client with you anytime.
Q: Would you like to go for a coffee?
A: Anytime.
I’d like to go for a coffee anytime.

In each example, we are using “anytime” as an open agreement, indicating the speaker’s willingness to assist with homework, meet a client, or go for coffee. But you may be able to spot a more subtle meaning as well. 

By avoiding a precise time frame, the word “anytime” can also indicate a lack of commitment. Consider this example, which you might use to get out of agreeing to help:

“When are you free to help me set up the school hall for the concert?” asked Julia. “Anytime! Just give me a call,” responded Sasha.

Julia asks for a specific time in this example, but Sasha avoids giving her a precise answer. In this case, the word “anytime” is noncommittal — Sasha may not want to say “Yes” to help, but she doesn’t want to hurt Julia by saying “No” either.

This subtle use of the word “anytime” is often subjective. Recognizing this meaning will depend on your understanding of the context and the people involved.

“Anytime” as a Synonym for “You’re Welcome”

When you use it as a single word, “anytime” may also take on a slightly different meaning, something like “You’re welcome!” or “It’s my pleasure!” (source).

Think back to the example we discussed above. When your friend says, “Thank you so much for helping me with my bike!” and you reply, “Anytime!” you could respond by saying, “You’re welcome!” without changing the meaning of what you are saying.

What Is Another Word for “Anytime”?

As we’ve discussed, there are several alternatives to the word “anytime.” The correct choice depends on which meaning of the word you intend.

When you are using “anytime” to respond to someone thanking you, you can replace it with any other word or phrase that has the same meaning. Examples include:

  • Sure!
  • You’re welcome.
  • It’s my pleasure.
  • No problem!
  • Not at all.
  • Don’t mention it.
  • No worries!

Note that some of these examples are more informal than others.

When you are using “anytime” as an adverb of time to refer to an unspecified time period, there are a few alternative adverbs and adverbial phrases of time that you might be able to use instead. These include:

  • Whenever
  • At your convenience
  • At any time
  • Sometime

However, these alternatives may have slightly different meanings, and we can’t always swap them directly with “anytime.” Consider some of these examples from above:

You’re welcome to come round for dinner anytime.You’re welcome to come round for dinner at any time.
We can meet anytime that suits you.We can meet at your convenience.
The courier says my parcel might arrive anytime before noon tomorrow.The courier says my parcel might arrive sometime before noon tomorrow.

Note that in the first example, we are still using “any time,” but there is a space between the two words. We will discuss this spelling later in this article.

Image by Bram Naus via Unsplash

How Do You Use “Anytime”?

Remember that we sometimes use “anytime” in a full sentence as an adverb of time, and sometimes we use it as a standalone exclamation.

Using the word “anytime” correctly depends on which of the meanings we’ve discussed apply.

Using “Anytime” in a Full Sentence

If you are using “anytime” as an adverb of time in the first sense that we discussed above, you should use it in a full sentence. When you use “anytime” in this way, place it in the sentence exactly where you would place another adverb or adverbial phrase of time. 

Consider these examples:

You’re welcome to come round for dinner anytime.You’re welcome to come round for dinner next Friday.
We can meet anytime that suits you.We can meet on a day next week that suits you.
The courier says my parcel might arrive anytime before noon tomorrow.The courier says my parcel might arrive between 10 a.m. and 12 o’clock tomorrow.
Anytime someone comes to visit, my dog rushes to the door.When someone comes to visit, my dog rushes to the door.

Note that we often make the time frame more specific when we replace “anytime” with an alternative adverbial phrase.

Using “Anytime” as a Single Word

Using “anytime” as a single word to abbreviate a sentence or to mean “you’re welcome” is a casual and colloquial use of the word.

You may notice that the examples in which we have used “anytime” as a single word are conversations between friends or peers. 

In the written examples, you may also notice that you would follow the word “anytime” by an exclamation point, which indicates an enthusiastic verbal expression and often shows an informal use of the word.

In this context, the word “anytime” is a standalone pleasantry — a common, polite remark or response between people who don’t know each other very well. To learn more about standalone pleasantries, read “Is It Correct to Say ‘Safe Travels’?

When Can You Use “Anytime”?

You can use “anytime” in different contexts depending on the meaning you are trying to convey, such as communicating willingness or referring to time in a general manner. 

For example, you can use it to demonstrate your willingness to help someone with a task:

“Can I come to your office sometime to get advice about my thesis?” asked Sonja. “Of course — anytime!” responded Professor Kimberley.

Note that in examples like these, you would often use “anytime” in response to a question using the word “sometime.”

As we’ve discussed, you can also use “anytime” when you want to refer to time in a general way — sometimes for dramatic effect:

  • The weather forecast tells us this rain is not going away anytime soon.

In this example, we know the rain will go away at some stage, probably in the not too distant future, but using “anytime” allows us to complain dramatically about how long the rain is lasting.

In What Context Can You Use “Anytime”?

It is most socially acceptable to use “anytime” in a colloquial context, and most of the examples we have discussed involve informal and conversational contexts. 

For instance, it would be better to use “anytime” when speaking to a peer and not when writing a legal report or speaking to the President!

When Not to Use “Anytime”

Since the use of “anytime” in a colloquial way as a peasantry is conversational and casual, it follows that you should not use “anytime” in this sense in more formal settings, such as in a formal work email.

In these contexts, it’s best to say “you’re welcome” or to find a phrase with similar meaning. Consider the following sentences. In each case, we have replaced the word “anytime” with a more formal alternative.

Example: Thank you for your assistance in setting up this meeting.

Response 1: Anytime!

Response 2: You’re welcome.

Example: Will you please meet this client with me?

Response 1: Anytime.

Response 2: I am more than happy to meet the client with you.

It is also sometimes grammatically incorrect to use the word “anytime,” and you should rather use two words, “any” and “time.” We will discuss this form in the next section.

Is “Anytime” One Word or Two?

So far, we have discussed the meaning and the use of the single word “anytime,” but you have probably seen “any time” as two words with a space in between. 

In fact, in the past, the correct spelling of “anytime” was always as two words, and, in formal contexts, it is still sometimes spelled that way. So if you are unsure, you can write any of the example sentences we’ve discussed so far in this way, and you won’t be wrong:

  • You’re welcome to come round for dinner any time.
  • The weather forecast tells us this rain is not going away any time soon.
  1. Would you mind helping me with my homework?
  2. Any time!

Is it Grammatically Correct to Say “Anytime”?

There are some contexts in which it is incorrect to write “anytime” as one word, and the correct form is two words, “any time.” The first of these is when you use a preposition such as “at” before “any time.” 

Consider these examples, and note that some of them are almost identical to previous examples in this article. The only difference is the addition of the preposition “at”:

  • I have to keep my phone on, as my lawyer could call at any time.
  • We can meet at any time that suits you.
  • The courier says my parcel might arrive at any time before noon tomorrow.

The second context in which we write “any time” as two words is when we are referring to an amount of time. In this case, “any time” is a noun phrase or a group of words that functions as a noun or naming word (source). Consider these examples:

  • Do you have any time available today to discuss the client’s request?
  • My husband never has any time to talk to me.
  • I enjoyed my evening, but I hardly had any time to speak to my friends.

Is There a Space Between “Anytime”?

There is no space between “anytime” when you are using it as an adverb, but when you use it as a noun phrase, there is a space between the two words: “any time.”

When you are speaking aloud, it is usually impossible to tell whether you are pronouncing “anytime” as one word or two, but as you can see, the spelling can be important to the grammatical correctness of your sentence.

When you are trying to work out whether you are using “anytime” as an adverb or “any time” as a noun phrase, try replacing it with an alternative adverb or a noun phrase in your sentence and see if it is still grammatically correct. For example:

AdverbCall me anytimeCall me quickly.
Noun phraseDo you have any time to discuss the client’s request today?Do you have a few minutes to discuss the client’s request today?

“Anytime” is not the only word that we sometimes write as one word and sometimes as two. To learn about another example, read “Anyday or Any Day: Which Is Correct?

Parts of Speech: Adverbs Versus Indefinite Pronouns

An adverb is a word that modifies or describes the verb in a sentence. In other words, if you ask how, where, when, or why someone performed an action, the adverb gives you the answer (source). 

For example:

How did Malcolm run? Malcolm ran quickly.

Where are you taking me? I am taking you outside.

When are we going on vacation? We are going on vacation tomorrow.

Why did Rob eat my pizza? Robert ate your pizza because he was hungry.

“Anytime” is an adverb of time, answering the question, “When?”

When are you free to talk? I am free to talk anytime.

Adverbs Versus Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are pronouns — that is, a word that can replace the noun in a sentence — that do not refer to any specific person or thing (source). These words identify or name nouns (people, animals, objects, and places) in a general way. 

Consider these examples:

  • Everybody was hungry when we got home from the match.
  • Would you like some cake?
  • I heard a noise outside my window, but when I opened the curtains, nothing was there.

“Anytime” has a similar format to these indefinite pronouns and refers to an unspecified time, so it is common to mistake it for an indefinite pronoun rather than an adverb of time (source). 

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Very simply speaking, this is because adverbs describe or modify time, place, and reason, answering the questions “how,” “where,” “when,” or “why,” whereas pronouns identify or name people, places, and objects.

Final Thoughts

“Anytime” is a word that seems simple at first glance but is a minefield of subtle grammatical rules and social nuances. But some simple rules will help you remember how to use it correctly. 

Take some time to understand the grammar and usage of “anytime,” and you’ll soon be confident using this common word or phrase in any situation, conversation, or formal setting!