I recent­ly asked for input on words peo­ple com­mon­ly con­fuse, and some­one said that she often hears peo­ple say any­ways, pre­sum­ably instead of any­way.

Most dic­tio­nar­ies and gram­mar­i­ans will indi­cate that any­way is the prop­er form and that any­ways is the slang ver­sion of it. 

In Mid­dle Eng­lish, any­ways was con­sid­ered an adver­bial gen­i­tive, a word with an S tacked onto the end to indi­cate that it was an adverb. Oth­er adver­bial gen­i­tives were always, towards, back­wards, and besides. We gen­er­al­ly don’t have adver­bial gen­i­tives any­more, but the prac­tice of includ­ing an S per­sists for a few words; although more so for Com­mon­wealth Eng­lish speak­ers than Amer­i­can Eng­lish speak­ers.

While peo­ple might gen­er­al­ly treat any­ways as slang — or even as incor­rect — it has been in use for cen­turies. Mer­ri­am-Web­ster, for exam­ple, claims that it has been around since at least the 13th cen­tu­ry. Google Books shows a 1579 book as the ear­li­est use.

Regard­less of how old it actu­al­ly is, any­ways has been around for a long time. Call­ing it infor­mal or slang — as most dic­tio­nary tend to do — is a bit pre­sump­tu­ous at this point. It’s at least 500 years old.

Grant­ed, the usage of any­way is much high­er than any­ways:

So much so, in fact, that any­ways bare­ly appears on the graph. But if you get rid of any­way from the graph, we can see that any­ways has actu­al­ly been on a bit of a resur­gence in lit­er­a­ture:

It’s still not any­where near where it was last cen­tu­ry or in the 18th cen­tu­ry.

So, back to the ques­tion of this post’s title: Is it okay to use any­ways? In short, yes. How­ev­er, you need to be aware of your audi­ence; a lot of peo­ple con­sid­er it slang, so you may get some push­back.

 

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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