Anyhow, Anyway & Anyways: What’s the Difference?

Odin

This week, I received a question from a family friend about the words anyhow, anyway and anyways. He wanted to know the difference between the three and the correct way to use them. As always, I am happy to oblige!

First of all, all three words are adverbs, so they have that much in common.

When used as conjunctive adverbs, anyhow and anyway are interchangeable. In fact, in the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, the first definition for anyhow is anyway. When used in this manner, the meaning for both words is in any case.

  • Thor couldn’t find his hammer anywhere; anyhow it’s not like he needed it for the party.
  • Now Thor was late; anyway he knew they wouldn’t start the feast without him.

But, if you are using anyhow simply as an adverb then it refers to something being done in a careless manner or something being in a disorderly state.

  • It was Loki’s turn to set the table in Valhalla and he had just tossed things on the table anyhow.
  • Though they tried not to stare it was clear Hel needed some beauty advice, as she had put on her make-up all anyhow.

Now, if you are using anyway as a simple adverb, it can mean something is done in any way or manner (which often appears as any way), or it can refer to the act of resuming (typically, after a break in speech or thought).

  • Odin’s guests came anyway they could; in ships, on horseback or in the arms of the Valkyries.
  • With a wave of her hand, Frigga dismissed Loki and turned back to her guests, “Anyway, as I was saying…”

Anyways is a colloquial/informal version of anyway. Some grammar folks will tell you that it is wrong and should never, ever be used or you will bring shame and humiliation upon your entire family. I’m here to tell you those people need to relax. In Old and Middle English, adding the –s to adverbs was common, as evidenced by words like towards, always and unawares. Anyways is a more modern construction, but then language evolves, right?

So, if you are writing something formal, then yes, stick with anyway. But if you are trying to convey something more informal – or if you’re trying to set a medieval tone – then feel free to use the colloquial anyways.

  • Loki pouted outside Valhalla, muttering to himself, “That stupid party sucked anyways!”

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Image credit: Ludwig Pietsch / Wikimedia Commons

 

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15 thoughts on “Anyhow, Anyway & Anyways: What’s the Difference?

  1. Suzanne, very informative! Remind me never to play scrabble with you. Thanks much for your time.
    The info. about adding s to words wa intereting too.
    Loki loki here comes Odin…who Friggan invited him anywho?

  2. Just wanted to politely draw your attention to your second sentence above: ” … between the three … ” I’m sure you meant to say ” … among the three … “

  3. I’m so happy I came across this site! I teach English in Chile so I always like to double check certain constructions. This is wonderful. Thanks!

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