Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Examples:

  • Anyone
  • Anything
  • Anytime
  • Anywhere
  • Everyone
  • Everything
  • Every time
  • Everywhere
  • No one
  • Nothing
  • No time
  • Nowhere
  • Someone
  • Something
  • Sometime
  • Somewhere

Why is there a discrepancy? Is there any rule for determining when to use a single word vs. two words?

share|improve this question
3  
Well, "no one" probably remains two words to avoid a potentially-confusing spelling. Dunno about the rest, or a general rule, though. –  Marthaª Nov 23 '10 at 0:16
    
I would have said "anytime" and "sometime" were controversial, also. "My sometime drinking buddy" means my former drinking buddy, but events in the past happened "some time ago". Similarly, I see "any time" a lot more frequently than "anytime", I think. –  thesunneversets Nov 23 '10 at 1:06
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Language is always changing, and most often in the direction of simplification. You can even see the evolution happening before your own eyes. "All ready" became "already"; "all right" is in the process, through usage and repetition, of becoming "alright" (if not in fact "a'ight"). It is already accepted as an informal alternative to "all right" and I predict that it will supplant the two-word version altogether (!) except in the most formal writing (e.g., academic papers) within the lifetimes of many of us.

share|improve this answer
2  
"Already", even as used by you, means "now and since a time prior to this". "All Ready" has never meant this. –  mickeyf Nov 23 '10 at 14:47
1  
@mickeyf: According to Dictionary.com, it has. Please visit the link I put on that sentence. –  Robusto Nov 23 '10 at 14:49
1  
It's funny; I was unaware that "alright" had not already done this. Perhaps I mostly see it used in very informal contexts? –  SamB May 3 '11 at 4:54
add comment

Pure convention. Unfortunately, there isn't a logical reason why some of those are written as a single word, and some aren't. It's essentially a matter of tradition. Consider especially the case of "no one", which is very clearly a single phonological word with a single word stress, but which has never been accepted as a compound.

share|improve this answer
2  
Like I said above, I think "no one" remains two words because it's not supposed to be pronounced /new-nee/. But come to think of it, I have seen it spelled "no-one", primarily in Victorian novels. –  Marthaª Nov 23 '10 at 6:39
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.