For the next three or four posts, I’m going to dive into some interesting aspects of word usage confusion (with a little grammar thrown in). Writers need to put their best foot forward in terms of understanding and using the language properly and precisely. Doing otherwise risks our readers misunderstanding what we’re trying to say and potentially making us look bad and losing sales as a result.
Even if you’re paying an editor to correct your mistakes, it’s never prudent to assume that a given editor is going to spot and fix everything, because no editor is perfect, and there’s always the chance that the editor will misunderstand your intent and change something incorrectly.
A while back (September 17, 2012, to be exact), I promised to talk about confusing words with “any, some, and every,” but I never did as promised (sometimes I get easily distracted). Time sure flies. Well, I guess before the delay hits the decade mark, and while I’m still drawing breath, maybe it’s time to make good on my promise.
Let’s dive in.
Here’s the list I will deal with:
anytime vs. any time
anymore vs. any more
sometime vs. some time
sometimes vs. some times
everyone vs. every one
everybody vs. every body
The words “anytime,” “anymore,” “sometime,” and “sometimes” are adverbs, meaning they modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Some of you may recall from your high school days that adverbs answer one of these questions:
Where? (He is going there)
When? (He is going now.
In what manner? (or How?) (He is walking slowly.
To what extent? (The city is very far from here.)
Use these four questions to help you decide whether you want the one-word form or the two-word form, but even then you might have to think about it on occasion.
These words (anytime, anymore, sometime, sometimes) in their one-word form all answer the “when” question:
—You can come over anytime (when?) this afternoon.
—I don’t want to do this anymore (when?).
—Sometimes (when?) life gets in the way of our plans, but I definitely will go skiing with you sometime (when?) this winter.
What about the two-word forms (any time, some time, any more)?
“Time” in the first two is a noun, and “more” is a pronoun. I know it’s not obvious that “more” is a pronoun here. Nouns and pronouns answer the “What?” question. In another post in this series I’ll be talking about the different parts-of-speech hats that “there” and “more” can wear.
—Time (a noun) is something most of us don’t have enough of.
—What I want is more (a pronoun).
Adverbs don’t modify nouns. ADJECTIVES modify nouns or pronouns. In the two-word forms with “any” and “some,” the first word is an adjective that tells how much or how many.
Adjective questions are these:
Therefore, if you think about what you want to say, it’s pretty easy to tell whether you want one word or two words. Look at the first sentence that I want to express, then at the second one where I break down the kind of word we want:
—I don’t have any time to read anymore.
—I don’t have (how much?) ANY (of what?) TIME to read (when?) ANYMORE.
—Sometime soon I should have some time to plant flowers.
—(when?) SOMETIME soon I should have (how much?) SOME (of what?) TIME to plant flowers.
—Some times during the day are better than others for getting work done.
—Some (what?) TIMES during the day are better than others for getting work done.
However, to throw the wrench into the works, when using “anytime” as an adverb, it is acceptable to write it either as one word or two words.
—Having a new and reliable car, I now can go anywhere, anytime.
—Having a new and reliable car, I now can go anywhere, any time.
As one article I ran across put it, if you’re not sure that “anytime” is being used as an adverb, try substituting another adverb for it. In the case of these examples, “quickly” (definitely an adverb) would make sense.
—Having a new and reliable car, I can go anywhere quickly.
And to add one more level to the “anytime” mix, it can be used as a coordinating conjunction (even though most dictionaries don’t point this out) when it means “whenever” in the sense of “every time that.”
—Every time that I order a beer, I like to order one I haven’t tried before.
—Whenever I order a beer, I like to order one I haven’t tried before.
—Anytime I order a beer, I like to order one I haven’t tried before.
Everyone/every one and everybody/every body are a little different because “everyone” and “everybody” are pronouns, not adverbs. In fact, one way to tell if “everyone” is used correctly is if you can replace it with “everybody” and have it make sense:
—Everyone at the party had a good time.
—Everybody at the party had a good time.
Note that these words are the SUBJECT of the sentence, and therefore are pronouns.
What about the two-word forms?
—Every one of us had a good time. (“one” is the subject of the sentence modified by the adjective “every” telling how many)
But here you cannot substitute either “everybody” or “every body” because neither substitution makes sense, as the nonsense sentences below illustrate:
—Everybody of us had a good time. (nonsense)
—Every body of us had a good time. (nonsense)
But we can say:
—Everybody had a good time.
—Everybody in the bank at the time of the robbery survived.
—Every body lying on the floor after the robbery had been shot or stabbed. (sorry to be so gruesome)
Next time I will talk about the differences between “on to” vs. “onto” and “in to” vs. “into.”
As a teaser, which of the following two sentences is the correct one?
—Dan logged on to his computer.
—Dan logged onto his computer.
I’ll give the correct answer in the next post.