Anyway, Any Way, or Anyways?

By Jacquelyn Landis

We writers often have to contend with compound words that begin their life as two words only to eventually morph into one. “Backyard” is a good example. It originally was two words, “back yard,” used to describe the area behind a house. Sometime in the mid-1600s, it successfully made the transition to a single compound word.

Then there are other compounds that are in limbo, somewhere in the midst of the transition from two words to one. Consider “health care,” a topic on everyone’s mind these days. If you Google it, you’ll get about 63 million returns for the two-word compound but a whopping 129 million for the single word “healthcare.” That’s a good indicator that the single word will soon be standard. However, most style manuals still mandate the two-word version.

To complicate matters even further, we have words with separate meanings as a single-word compound or as two individual words. “Anyway” and “any way” are two that often perplex writers. These are entirely different terms that do indeed have distinct meanings.

“Anyway” is an adverb, and it means regardless or in any event:

Marshall’s grades have slipped, but he plans to apply to Harvard anyway.

“Any way” is a paired adjective and noun meaning any particular course, direction, or manner:

Chloe is willing to help Marshall prepare for the SAT in any way she can.

Then we have “anyways,” a colloquial corruption of “anyway.” It’s universally considered nonstandard and should be avoided altogether. It might help to remember that “anyway” is an adverb, and adverbs can’t be plural.

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45 Responses to “Anyway, Any Way, or Anyways?”

  • Levi Montgomery

    Actually, would use backyard as an adjective (backyard barbecue), and back yard as a place (the barbecue in the back yard).

    And I’ve been accused of being a very early adopter of compound closures.

  • Brad K.

    Anyways reminds me of a line from Eddie Murphy’s _Pluto Nash_, “Have you been bitching to my Moms?” That movie has it all, the love story, the gansters, the action – and as cheesy as it gets, with light-hearted comedy and freeze-dried chihuahua ready to be popped in the neutron oven.

    I think of “anyways” as an emphasized-by-repetition form of anyway. That is, replace “Anyway, anyhow, anywhere, anytime, anywho” or “Anyway, any way, any way at all” with “anyways”. See? Multiple anyways for emphasis.

  • KS

    Thank for the post! I was just wondering, recently, why I hear so many folks say “anyways” – I hate that. I think it’s in the same category as saying “alls” I know, “alls” you have to do… ugh.

  • koru

    I hate ‘anyways’ too!

  • Brad K.

    Glancing through my Chambers dictionary, I chanced upon “nowise”. It referenced the second meaning of no.

    Noway, noways, or nowise [adv]; in no way, manner, or degree.

    Anywhere is listed, buy anywheres is considered a North American dialect word. Anyways is considered a US dialect word.

    I figure dialect and jargon are two faces of the same coin. They are useful in informed context, but not polite for public usage.

  • Aaron

    Who doesn’t hate “anyways” except ppl who use it….

  • Lynnette

    Someone should start a site where one can go to point out the use of words such as anyways being used in tv or movies or magazines and etc . Then the site would notify the offender to stop using it. This one makes me cringe!

  • Alisha

    When I heard “anyways” for the first time, I thought the speaker was wrong. When I heard more and more people say “anyways”, I started questioning myself that maybe I was wrong, since my native language is not English. So I googled, and here I am, :). Don’t understand why they have to add that “s”…

  • Scott

    Isn’t “Us writers” the correct form? Just asking.

  • Jacquelyn Landis

    Scott: Because the phrase “We writers” is in the subjective form, it is correct. If the phrase had been in the objective form, say, as the object of a preposition, “us writers” would then be correct. (Ex: Compound words are difficult for us writers.) One easy way to determine the proper pronoun is to drop its accompanying noun and then say the sentence. “Us often have to contend with . . .” is clearly incorrect, so that should tip you off that the subjective “We” is the right choice.

  • Katie

    I have had exactly the same experience as Alisha! First, I thought the few colleagues that used “anyways” were incorrect, and I laughed privately. Then, when I heard some politician or interviewer on tv use it, I thought maybe I was wrong afterall. I am so happy to know that my mother did teach me correctly! I think “anyways” sounds like some fourteen-year-old valley girl.

  • supernova!****

    so speaking of “anyways” is wrong?

  • supernova!****

    my friend says “anyways” in everything and i laugh on it but never told her that its wrong to speak “anyways” coz i think it wud be her insult
    tho i laugh at her privately

  • Andrew

    Anyways feels the same as nonetheless. I am sure that word and other one-upon-a-time colloquialisms ticked people off, too, but english is a living language subject to change and it changes based upon thsoe speaking it, and amoung those speaking it, a very small percent is made up of grammarians. It, along with ‘alot’ and a buncha’ other words are likely to be incorporated into accepted english words in the near future. I don’t mind it because of that. Although, alot bothers me a lot XD

  • Bent

    “..adverbs can’t be plural.”

    “always” is an adverb and it’s plural

  • Jacquelyn Landis

    “Always” is not plural. It’s an adverb without number that means “at all times.” Simply because a word ends in “s” does not mean it’s a plural–think about words like hostess, Kansas, species, and politics (although politics is plural in form, its meaning is singular).

  • supernova!****

    i told ppl tht speaking of anyways is incorrect…but they dont listen me..and say u dnt know anything…….but ima always ryt!

  • Miriam

    Whenever I hear “anyways,” it makes me think of moronic cheerleaders who have never had an intelligent conversation in their life. -_- It annoys me to no end..

  • Asnoty

    People are becoming lazy or stupid. I hate when people say “Anyways”. If fact, here are a few more words/phrases I hate:

    Alls (‘Alls you have to do…’)
    These ones (‘These ones right here….’)
    Yous (‘All yous have to do…’)

    I could care less….
    Calm, cool and collective…
    For all intensive purpose…

    I would go on and on, but I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m angry!!! 🙂

  • Asnoty

    Typo…. ‘In fact’

  • supernova!****

    i tell ppl to speak anyway instead anyways..but they dont!! huh!! whats wrong with them…i even told them reason..eurgh!!! i just hate them all!!

  • bongo

    My husband often says “anyways” and I hate it! He thinks I’m wrong and hypercritical. Today I told him that I’ve noticed that most people say it, so I decided to research it. I was happy to report to him that it is incorrect and it makes him sound like a hick that was raised in a barn. His mother was an English major in college, perhaps he would listen if she corrected him. We grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I wonder if moving to Texas has had something to do with it?

  • duke

    English is not my first language. Maybe that’s why I like “anyways”. Its sounding suggests some unexplainable meaning to me. Far more richer then just “anyway”. It could mean double or triple “anyway”. “I have done it with the greatest determination possible. Against all odds. The word “anyway” is so weak to describe that, so unfortunately I have to use anyways.” Every language is a living thing. People are using the word. You can say it’s wrong, but it’s still there. And it sounds nice. So, anyway or anyways. Not a big deal. To me at least. Or anyways.

  • jonathan

    “Anyway” means no matter what, “anyways” means with full determination….

    is that correct?

  • Erica

    Jonathan, don’t those two definitions essentially mean the same thing? There should never be an “s” attached to the word “anyway.”

  • Naomi

    In writing I tend to use “anyway”, but if I’m speaking in a formal setting I try to avoid using the word “anyway” because it’s not very professional.

    If I speak I usually say “anyways”, because I only speak it in informal settings. And I find among those I’m familiar with I prefer to use slang. Most people use some sort of slang around those they’re close with. It acknowledges some sort of bond, for me at least.

  • Karen

    The word is, ANYWAY…period. When people say “anyways”, it makes them sound uneducated.
    Here’s are some other slaughtered words:
    Tooken…”I’ve tooken my children to see the movie”. Should be TAKEN.
    Exspecially…”I love chocolate, exspecially on ice cream”. Should be ESPECIALLY.
    Expresso…”I drink expresso every morning”. Should be ESPRESSO.
    Irregardless…”You bought the purse, irregardless of the high price”. Should be REGARDLESS.

  • Daysleeper

    I now know “anyways” is incorrect, but it sounds so much nicer. I am very educated, and I lived at a college for the last four years. I interacted with faculty and fellow students on a daily basis. Still, I heared “anyways” quite often. The only person who ever corrected me on it was my mother, but she grew up in Jamaica, where the people speak a dialect of British English. I always assumed she said “anyway” for the same reason she said “aluMINium”.

  • Andrea

    I hate when people say “anyways” as well. Has anyone noticed that Adam Sandler says it a billion times in all of his movies?

  • Barbara

    Mayor Bloomberg (NYC) always says “Anyways” it drives me crazy!

    Others are:

    Don’t ya: Don’t ya want to go to the movies?

    Yer instead of your, Yer sister is lovely.

    I could care less – drives me bonkers.

    ax instead of ask

    Breastis instead of breasts.

    Off topic, but using the word female (for a human being) instead of woman. This is not incorrect, but it pulls out all my feathers.

    My teacher is a female. Instead of, my teacher is a woman. Just a pet peeve of mine.

  • LJ

    Jonathan: this is what it says if you Google “anyways definition”:

    US and Canadian a nonstandard word for anyway

    I hate it!!!

  • Anyways

    I think if you hear it in public, or on the internet, why bother correcting it? If you aren’t grading a paper maybe people should speak the way they want. I say it all the time regardless of knowing the correct term, because usually the people I chat with don’t care, because they aren’t in life to grade how I interact with them.
    Let it go.

  • Anyways, yes

    I agree that there is something incredibly beautiful about spoken language, remarkably different than written language. I find many of the comments in this forum to be highly judgemental and problematic in their assumption that one’s manner of speaking is a reflection of one’s intelligence (as per “born in a barn”, “valley girl” and “fourteen year old cheerleader”). Slang is tremendously clever, creative and ingenious. How boring language would be if it didn’t evolve to suit the purposes of those speaking it. I enjoyed reading the comments about the possibilities encapsulated in the emergence of a word like “anyways” – what can it mean that “anyway” does not? Instead of immediately informing people that “anyways” is incorrect, it might be more fascinating to ask people who use the term to explain what they consider the difference between “anyway” and “anyways” to be. But, if it makes YOU feel better to inform people that their manner of speaking is ‘unintelligent’ and ‘backwater’, by all means, continue assuming that role. Anyways…

  • madhuri

    I agree that there is something incredibly beautiful about spoken language, remarkably different than written language. I find many of the comments in this forum to be highly judgemental and problematic in their assumption that one’s manner of speaking is a reflection of one’s intelligence (as per “born in a barn”, “valley girl” and “fourteen year old cheerleader”). Slang is tremendously clever, creative and ingenious. How boring language would be if it didn’t evolve to suit the purposes of those speaking it. I enjoyed reading the comments about the possibilities encapsulated in the emergence of a word like “anyways” – what can it mean that “anyway” does not? Instead of immediately informing people that “anyways” is incorrect, it might be more fascinating to ask people who use the term to explain what they consider the difference between “anyway” and “anyways” to be. But, if it makes YOU feel better to inform people that their manner of speaking is ‘unintelligent’ and ‘backwater’, by all means, continue assuming that role. Anyways…

  • Johnathan Hutley

    The United States as become the “mecca” of all things cheap. It’s products are cheap, it’s food is cheap. Americans do not care who or how something is made they shop on price. Americans speak in similar fashion, cheap. They talk to much, they say very little, they know very little and yet the continue to speak. There voices are often high pitched and grating and in turn their “invented” terminology is also grating. “Anyways” is one such “invention”. As grating as it is incorrect it speaks bounds about the utterer whose tongue this colloquialism rolls off. Uneducated, low classed, non-discriminating and cheap are some of the connotations associated with the usage of “Anyways”. Any wonder why it is exclusively an American term?

  • Victoria

    Johnathan, ‘anyways’ is a Canadian term too. You are discriminating against Americans. You have not met all Americans. Not all Americans don’t care who or how something is made. Not all Americans speak cheaply. Not all Americans are stupid. Not all Americans have high-pitched voices. Anyways, women have high-pitched voices. Not just American women. British women do. So do Canadian women. So do European women. You are being close-minded. If the English language didn’t evolve, we’d still be speaking like cave people. Sure, many people do use ‘anyways’. That doesn’t make them cheap, stupid, or of low class.

    Barbara, when people say ‘Don’t ya?’, ‘ax’ instead of ‘ask, and ‘yer’, its because they have an accent. Especially with ‘yer’.

    “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

    Don’t be racist. Don’t be discriminating. As Anyways up there said, “…they aren’t in life to grade how I interact with them.”

  • Curtis Stotlar

    “Anyways” is beautifully spoofed by James Thurber in a hysterically funny piece he wrote on the use of “who” and “whom”. I seem to remember “Whom do you think you are, anyways?”. I highly recommend looking it up online.

    Curtis Stotlar

  • zvbprince

    Victoria your response could not be better. Thank you for sticking up for the uneducated ubiquitous masses whose speech lingers but for moment and is as evanescent as the dew.

    Jonathan before you begin to critic others it would be good to look at what you wrote. I could not highlight the words that need correcting so I put them in CAPS.

    The United States AS become the “mecca” of all things cheap. IT’S products are cheap, it’s food is cheap. They talk TO much, they say very little, they know very little and yet the continue to speak. THERE voices are often high pitched and grating. . . .etc.

  • James

    I am Canadian, have always said “anyways” and never given it a second thought. This is just the way we North Americans say it, whether we are uneducated or not. Get over it!

    My own pet peeve is when people say “less” when they mean “fewer”, as in “there are less people in here now than there were last night”. That is like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

  • Colby

    I think it’s fine to use colloquialisms and non-standard English, just as long as your meaning is understood. When it comes down to it, that’s the purpose of language, to communicate. I recognize that some kind of standard needs to be upheld, but if a person knows the standard yet chooses to use improper English for whatever reason, then I say, speak and let speak.

    For example, in the U.S.A., many people use double negatives to mean a single negative, instead of a positive. Now, I’m an English teacher in Korea and I discipline myself to speak properly around my students and co-teachers to avoid confusion and uphold the English standard. Nevertheless, when I’m around friends or when I go home, I inevitably fall back into more comfortable speaking habits. I’m also careful to teach my students that some English speakers use double negatives to mean a single negative, even though it’s incorrect.

    Personally, I thoroughly enjoy knowing and using various colloquialisms because they embody a living language. They add character, vitality and panache. Furthermore, English has evolved almost exclusively from colloquial corruptions. Today’s corruption is tomorrow’s standard.

  • Aiden Wolfe

    The undeserved pretentiousness radiating from these comments is truly sickening. As a professional writer, I deal with anal retentive editors on a daily basis. However, at least they have the decency to practice what they preach. They understand that language evolves, and the whole point of writing effectively is to communicate with a certain flow and cadence.

    Almost all of these comments are plagued with grammatical errors. The utter hypocrisy of you people is enough to induce a brain aneurysm. Anyways, I suggest you take a good look at the dictionary.

  • Tonya

    Where I am from, we use “anyways” in place of “so anyway” in the beginning of a sentence. If your in a conversation that has drifted off subject, one would say, “Anyways,” and get back on subject. It is a common “Valley” thing in Northern California. “Kinda like, ya know, our little code for…I’m done talking about that now, back to what I was saying.” (with a bit of attitude for being interrupted) I personally think it is better than someone who is going to “ax” (aks) you a question from the Southern States. Every place has their quirky lingo. Don’t judge, just move on to the meat and potatoes of the conversation. =) <3

  • Ellen

    I’m a teacher and also a grammar stickler to a moderate degree. Mainly I believe in focusing on the meaning of what people are saying! Over the past several decades I have enjoyed the fluid and flexible changes to the manner in which people speak. I, myself, have adopted some of the terminology and “slang” as it comes and goes. From year to year Merriam-Webster also incorporates changes, new words, and new uses for old words. Language is a part of the culture everywhere you go. If you don’t change and adapt to the present, and the people around you do, you are probably asking them, “Art thou mad?”
    Sometimes words are incorrectly used out of ignorance and sometimes they’re incorrectly used as a form of expression. So I would suggest that you look at “anyways” as another way of saying “Oh, well… “ But if you hear someone saying, for instance, “I like my eggs anyways you make them” I guess you might say “Put thy ‘s’ aroint good cater-cousin. The word thou’re looking f’r is ‘anyway’!”
    “I’m just sayin’….”
    “It is what it is, ya know?”
    Anyways….

  • Annoyed

    I can’t stand hearing “Anyways” and it is seemingly becoming increasingly more commonplace. I think since many are saying it, it is believed by others to be okay. I have been surprised to hear a late-night talk show host say it, which makes me cringe and I was shocked to hear a doctor, younger than myself, say it.

    As I have seen stated, one would not say “anyhows” instead of “anyhow”, so that should be considered by those who do this. Please, people, STOP doing this, it sounds so lame and will make you appear less intelligent. (As someone wonders why a another stopped seeing them, this kind of thing can be a turn off). I don’t care if you “hear others saying it”, that doesn’t make it right.

  • uf

    Language (and everything else) evolves. If you’re really so concerned about people changing what you consider the “correct” way to say something, understand that your way of speaking is completely ridiculous to previously “proper” ways (“oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum”).

    You’re free to be irritated by it, but that doesn’t change the fact that nothing is static. Prepositions will be used at the end of sentences, slang will take over the “normal” sayings, dialect will always differ… and “anyways” will be standard.

    See my point? Anyways…

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