When to use anyway and when to use any way?

  • Anyway I can do it.
  • Any way I can do it.

Are these the same?


Anyway is an example of a discourse marker, one of whose functions is "to indicate what speakers think about what they are saying or what others have said". (Swan, Practical English Usage, p138). Swan groups anyway together with anyhow, at any rate, and in any case, and describes their function as follows:

These four expressions are used (mostly informally) to mean 'What was said before doesn't matter - the main point is as follows'. Example: - I'm not sure what time I'll arrive, maybe seven or eight. Anyway, I'll certainly be there before eight thirty.

Swan goes on to point out the difference between anyway and in any way:

Note that anyway is not the same as in any way, which means by any method. Example: Can I help you in any way?

By these principles the discourse marker anyway in Anyway I can do it! implies some prior statement. For example: I'm not sure if I'll have time on Friday or Saturday. Anyway I can do it.

The second statement Any way I can do it has the noun way preceded by the determiner any, and implies some continuation. For example. Any way I can do it I will. Or more likely: I will do it in any way I can.

  • 'Be that as it may (, . . .)' is perhaps the most transparent member of this group Swan gives four examples of; it is less commonly used*, probably because of lack of succinctness. There is good reason to analyse the grammar of discourse markers (in fact, all pragmatic markers) separately from that of the matrix sentence. Whether we should call them all 'pragmatic markers', no matter how many words they consist of, ie treat them principally as MW units rather than break them down into words with individual classes, is moot. Dec 21 '13 at 8:59
  • *A very Christmassy Ngram for decoration Dec 21 '13 at 9:04
  • 1
    @Edwin. Yes, Be that as it may fits with anyway etc. in the same group of markers that Swan categorizes as 'dismissal of previous discourse'. This is just one of the 21 discourse marker categories he discusses. I didn't point it out in my answer but in fact the adjunct anyway can have other somewhat different functions. For example: Why are you asking me that anyway?. An interesting topic!
    – Shoe
    Dec 21 '13 at 9:25
  • Thanks – I was searching for the subsubclass! I love 'dismissal of previous discourse' (but I'm glad it's not just me coming up with these mouthfuls). You begin to have a bit of sympathy for the universal-adverbialist. Swan's classification is very helpful and comprehensive. The second usage you mention is an interaction-focusing marker as well as being dismissive of previous discourse content. Dec 21 '13 at 10:56
  • And then we have: He told me not to buy him a present but I'm going to do it anyway. And: Do you need help? - No, but thanks anyway. I guess these come under the broad category of dismissal of previous discourse; maybe they need their own subsubsubclasses!
    – Shoe
    Dec 21 '13 at 11:23

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