You can be excused for confusing “every day” with “everyday” or “anyone” with “any one.” They sound the same, after all. But these homonyms can’t be used interchangeably in writing without raising the ire of English teachers and other grammar ghouls. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to understand the difference between these common sound-the-same words and phrases you’ve probably been mixing up on occasion.
Should you use “every day” or “everyday”?
The thing to remember when choosing between “everyday” and “every day” is that “everyday” is an adjective.* It means commonplace or ordinary and is used to describe a noun.
- Example: She is wearing her everyday clothes — a glitter tube top and satin hot pants.
“Every day” is phrase made up of an adjective and a noun. The word “every” describes the word “day,” and together they mean “each day.”
- Example: She wears those same platform sandals every day.
(*I love exceptions: “Everyday” can also be used slangily as a noun that means something like “daily routine” in a sentence like “I’m getting used to my everyday,” but it’s a little annoying.)
Because English is a cantankerous beast, the rules that govern the usage of other sound-the-same words and phrases like “anyone” and “any one” or “everybody” and “every body” are slightly different.
How to choose between “anyone” and “any one”
“Anyone” is an indefinite pronoun that refers to any person, but no specific person. (It can only be used to describe people.)
- Example: Has anyone seen my coke spoon?
“Any one,” on the other hand, is an adjective phrase that refers to any single, specific person or thing in a group. It’s usually followed by “of.”
- Example: Any one of the members of Earth, Wind, and Fire can come to my pad for a fuzzy navel.
Should you use “everyone” or “every one”?
Similar (but not identical, of course) rules apply to “everyone” and “every one.”
“Everyone” is a singular pronoun that refers to all people in a group (even if the group is “all people”). It is only used to refer to people.
- Example: Everyone in Mr. Kotter’s classroom was growing bored of the grammar lessons, especially Barbarino.
“Every one” is used to refer to each individual member of a group (and it could be any group; it doesn’t have to be people). Like “any one,” you usually follow “every one” with “of.”
- Example: Every one of The Sweathogs failed the test, and Mr. Woodman was angry.
A way of remembering this: When “every” and “one” are together and make “everyone,” they’re referring to a group. When “every” and “one” are apart, you’re referring to individuals. (I learned that from grammarly.com.)
The difference between “anytime” and “any time”
A hundred years ago, “any time” was standard in all situations and “anytime” didn’t exist, so if you don’t mind coming across as a little stodgy, you can default to “any time” at any time and you will be correct. But if you must employ that groovy new “anytime,” things will get more complicated.
Here’s the thumbnail:
“Any time” is a noun phrase that means “at no particular time” or “soon” in sentences like:
“Come and enjoy my hot tub and Abba records any time!” and “The guy with the Quaaludes should be here any time.”
“Any time” is also an adverb (“any”) modifying the noun (“time”) in a sentence like, “I don’t have any time to go streaking. I’m busy getting a man-perm.”
“Anytime” is used as an adverb or a conjunction.
Adverb: “I’m ready to go to Studio 54 anytime.”
Conjunction: “Anytime you want learn to do macramé, give me a call.’
- To check if you’re using “anytime” as an adverb correctly, substitute another adverb, like “now.”
- Any time you put a word like “at” in front of “any time,” it must be two words.
Somebody, anybody, everybody (scream!)
“Somebody” is an indefinite pronoun referring to a certain unspecified person. “Some body” is a noun phrase referring to a certain unspecified body. Maybe a corpse. Maybe a body of water. Maybe a body of work.
- Example: Somebody went to Plato’s Retreat to see some body.
The same basic rules apply to “anybody,” “everybody” and their respective phrases. This one is a little less punishing, though. Because “somebody” et al. are used frequently, usually they’re the right choice. How often are you writing about funerary practices or a lagoon, right?
Let me leave you with something confusing
Because the English language can never stop tormenting its speakers, “somebody,” “anybody,” and “everybody” can basically be used interchangeably with “someone,” “anyone” and “everyone” (although “x-one” is slightly more formal), but “some body,” “any body,” and “every body” cannot be used used interchangeably with “some one,” “any one” and “every one.” So don’t even try it, Bucko.