The Many Ways of Anyway Posted by Gary Locke on Feb 27, 2020 in English Grammar, English Language, Speaking English
As you probably know, Americans are very good at abusing the English language. We fall into habits of misapplying words when speaking and, if we do it often enough, the wrong word becomes part of common speech. This is called a colloquialism.
The problem with some English colloquialisms, though, is that they can confuse anyone learning the language. If you hear something often enough, it is only logical to assume that what is being said is appropriate. Or, if you say a thing one way, is that other way okay, too? Which is a perfect lead-in to the confusing topic of anyway, any way, anyways, and anyhow.
Anyway is a common adverb which can be used in several forms. In common speech, it often indicates a change of topic.
“Anyway, what was your day like?”
It can also be a less formal substitute for regardless, or, nevertheless.
“I know it’s raining but, anyway, I want a walk, so I’ll take the trash out.”
Here’s the colloquialism that I mentioned earlier. It is an archaic form of the proper adverb anyway. In Old and Middle English, it was common to add s to adverbs in all their forms. Some of that usage remains. There are times, for example, when the adverb unaware can properly be used as unawares. It eliminates the need to add additional words to a phrase.
“Our manager felt it was best if some of the team was left unaware of the company’s finances.”/“Our manager felt it was best if some of the team was left unawares.”
Today, however, anyways is simply an informal corruption of anyway.
“I don’t know if it’s true or not but, anyways, that’s what I heard.”
“Anyways, let’s go get some ice cream.”
I’ve never understood its usage, even though I grew up with many friends and relatives who always added the s at the end of anyway. And, yes, it is fairly commonly heard in conversation. Do yourself a favor, though, and never use it in your writing. In fact, promise me that you’ll never use it under any circumstance.
When written as two words, any way is the adverbial form of by any means or in any manner.
“Any way you look at it, this is the best solution.”
“We can call for an Uber, or we can take the subway, any way we get to the restaurant is fine by me.”
It isn’t the same meaning as anyway, so don’t make the mistake of using them interchangeably.
I mention this adverb with some reluctance because its most common usage is as a synonym for anyway. It means anyway and is seldom used as a substitute. However, it can also be synonymous with haphazard and careless. It can be used to help support something you’ve already said. This makes it superfluous, or unnecessary, in most instances.
“I stopped watching the game because the other team couldn’t win anyhow.”
“I couldn’t pass that test any way, anyhow.”
Anyway, that’s my view on the subject. Use this information any way you like. Unless you use anyways in a sentence, you can’t go wrong anyhow.