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?”

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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….

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.”

  • 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?

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • LJ

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

    US and Canadian a nonstandard word for anyway

    I hate it!!!

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