Posted by: Chris Brew | April 6, 2010

Plain speaker’s guide to “any more” and “anymore:

First here’s a rephrasing of what Huddleston and Pullum’s epic Cambridge Grammar of English says about “any more” and similar adverbs. The main discussion is on p 710 and following, with other bits on 823 and 831

  1. They are polarity sensitive: this means that there is a difference in acceptability between “She isn’t here any more” and “She is here any more”. For many speakers, the first is OK, the second not.
  2. The difference between “any more” and “anymore” is a British/American spelling difference.
  3. You can line up “anymore” with “still” and “no longer”. They differ in how they work with negation.

My own impressions follow. Most speakers can say :

“She is still here” (i.e. she is here and has been for a while)
“She is still not here” (i.e. we are waiting, and she still hasn’t arrived),
“She is not here anymore” ,”She is no longer here” (in both cases, she was here, but now isn’t)

Many speakers find: “She is not still here”,”She is here anymore” awkward. For the first one the intended meaning is the same as the one expressed by “She is no longer here”. Some speakers, including me, blow a fuse when confronted with the second one, and don’t even understand what it means. For others, “anymore” can be used anywhere that “nowadays” is, with much the same meaning, so “She is here anymore” could be used (if you are, say, in a bar) when the person in question used to avoid the bar but now hangs out there on a regular basis. Similarly “Ice cream is cheap anymore” works for many people, but in my natural dialects, I  would have to either turn it round and say “Ice cream isn’t expensive anymore” or punt and say “Ice cream is cheap nowadays”.

Unfortunately, linguists have taken to confusing themselves and others by talking about “positive anymore”.  If they had called it “nowadays anymore” there would have  been no trouble. These adverbs are neither positive nor negative, just a little fussy about what kind of sentences they like to be wrapped up in. The “nowadays” translation helped me, and is from John Lawler. As he says

Apparently, for users of positive “anymore”, “nowadays” doesn’t
cut it anymore. Anymore, they use “anymore” instead. Or perhaps
only in certain speech contexts; the definitive sociolinguistic
study remains to be done.

I guess I can forgive him for using the term “positive”, because he puts it in quotes and gives an amusing example.

By the way, in Columbus, Ohio. ice cream really is cheap and good at Graeter‘s and  Jeni’s . No ice creams were consumed in the creation of this post, but several area shops are on high alert.

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Responses

  1. Ohhhhh! NOW i understand it! Now it makes sense. Brilliantly written and described. Chris i don’t know if anyone has told you this but you are pretty good at this blogging linguistics thing…..I plan to check back occassionally to see if there are ANY MORE to soak in…..


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