Any time 與 anytime

這是一則討論區的討論文章,我查了一些資料,匯整了一些看法。現在重新在這裡呈現,問題的核心在於 any time, anytime,與 at any time 何者對何者錯。這個問題的探討突顯出「用法」的考量凌駕「文法」應用的有趣現象。

一個句子 If you have any problem, you can come to me ___. 後面空白處如果要填 any time, anytime, 與 at any time,到底該選哪一個呢?我查過的資料是這樣子的:
Collins Cobuild English Usage 這本書有底下這樣的說明:

any time

If you can do something any time or at any time, you can do it whenever you want to.
If you’d like to give it a try, just come any time.
They can leave at any time.
When you use any time without ‘at’, you can spell it anytime.
I could have left anytime.
We’ll be hearing from him anytime now.
If you want to say that something can be done whenever a particular thing is needed, you can use any time with a ‘that’-clause, usually without ‘that’.
Any time you need him, let me know.
Any time the bees want a queen to hatch out of the egg, they can do it.

以上是 Collins 用法書的解說。

Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004 辭典裡,any 底下收錄有:
any time (also anytime) at whatever time.

American Heritage Dictionary 4th ed, 2004 裡面寫著:
anytime adv, At any time.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 7th edition 裡面寫著:
any time (BrE) (also anytime NAmE, BrE) adverb

一九六五年版的 Fowler’s Modern English Usage 有這樣的說明:
Any time is sometimes written as one word in US, but is always two in Britain.

同樣這本用法書到了二○○○年經過 R.W. Burchfield 修訂過的第三版有更詳盡的說明,如下:
anytime. Another characterically American adverb (= at any time). Example: She said she would vote for him anytime ─ New Yorker, 1987

另一本用法書 Bryan A. Garner 編寫的 A Dictionary of Modern American usage, 1998年版, 裡面有這樣的說明:
anytime, adv., = at any time; whenever. E.g.: “Anytime a seller rents back from a buyer, an interim occupancy agreement should be completed.”

根據以上的各家之言,我們可以得到一個比較接近事實的認識,那就是 any time 與 anytime 其實都是對的。原來英國只有 any time,後來美國開始出現 anytime 時,英國甚至還認為那是「僅限美國」的用法。後來也不得不接納anytime 的說法,成為正式的英文字。

所以,當一個人告訴你 any time 正確時,那麼您大概知道給這樣答案的人可能是比較重視傳統的英國人,或者是比較講究的母語人士。相反的,告訴您答案是 anytime 的人可能是比較新潮的美國人,或者比較勇於嘗試創新的人。當然 at any time 也是正確的用法。

這不是對或不對的問題,而是用法喜好的問題。但是我真的懷疑,即便是母語人士,也都清楚這樣的細微差別嗎?下次遇到老外時,不妨做個實驗,看看與你相處的老外是不是有真才實學。

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