In recent weeks Liz has been sharing language tips on distinguishing between every one and everyone, and every day and everyday. These are handy refreshers if you’re unsure of the distinctions. Such pairs abound in English and are a common source of confusion even for native speakers.
Every day and everyday may cause trouble, but the distinction, once learned, is straightforward. Other pairs are less clear-cut. Take any more and anymore. The two-word phrase is required for the sense “any further” or “any additional”: Are there any more biscuits? But when the sense is “any longer”, usage is mixed.
While proofreading a novel once, I found that Microsoft Word’s grammar-checking software* kept advising me to change any more to anymore in contexts such as: She could not take the stress any more. Anymore is more common in this context, but both forms are acceptable and the writer clearly preferred the one-word version. Robert Burchfield, in his revised edition of Fowler, comments:
Logically it would seem sensible to reserve the separated form for contexts in which the sense is “even the smallest amount” (the boy had eaten two of the apples and refused to eat any more of them) and the one-word form for the sense “any longer”. But the language does not work as neatly as that. By and large any more is used in all areas when the sense required is “even the smallest amount”. When the required sense is “any longer” there are sharp divisions.
Macmillan’s page on anymore notes that it is usually used in negatives (We don’t use the car anymore) or questions (Do you knit anymore?). It also appears in conditional contexts (If you fight anymore, I’ll stop the game). And sometimes the negative is not explicit but implied: It’s too busy to visit anymore. So for most people the word is what linguists call a negative polarity item.
But there is a variant construction, generally called positive anymore, that means “nowadays” or “from now on”: I cycle to work anymore. Macmillan Dictionary will be digital-only anymore. This usage dates to the 1850s at least, and seems to be spreading. The American Heritage Dictionary says the earliest recorded examples are from Northern Ireland, but it’s especially associated with south midland and midwestern US states, and western states with settlers from those areas.
The Dictionary of American Regional English says positive anymore is now used throughout the US by speakers of all educational levels, and that it’s neither substandard nor indicative of social standing. Nonetheless, it attracts criticism – usually, I suppose, from people to whom it’s unfamiliar, or who instinctively find it “improper”. If you have no such objections to it, maybe you’ll adopt it anymore.
* Speaking of which, Orin had a fascinating post last week on the difficulties prepositions pose for computers.Email this Post