One word or two? 6 pairs of commonly confused compounds

Should it be anybody or any body? Everyone or every one? Find out now.


Writers are sometimes confused about when to attach any, every, and no to one or body as a closed compound and when to treat one of these word pairs as just that: a two-word phrase. Here are guidelines and sample sentences for each combination:

Any body/Anybody

The two-word alternative, which refers to people’s physical form rather than the complete body/mind package, might be used as an advertising-copy play on anybody, as in “We can get any body into shape,” but that’s rare; it might also appear as a modifier-noun pair that itself modifies another noun: “People with any body type are at risk.” Anybody is the default version when referring to unspecified people: “Is anybody there?”

Any one/Anyone

“Any one brand is as good as the other” points out that each brand has equal merit. “Anyone can see that I’m right” notes that any person, considered one by one among a class of all possible people, would agree.

Every body/Everybody

When “every body” begins a sentence, the meaning is indistinguishable from when the closed compound is employed: “Every body in the room was tanned” differs only in emphasizing the physical forms of the people, while “Everybody in the room was tanned” focuses on the people who sport bronzed skins. In that case, because the distinction is so slight, the more comprehensive latter form prevails.

However, the phrase form is common in such wordplay-conscious constructions as “The Clothing Corral has attire for every body,” which, as in the previous example using the phrase, is nearly synonymous with its alternative (“The Clothing Corral has attire for everybody”) but calls attention to the corporeal manifestation of people, rather than their entire being, to make a point.

Every one/Everyone

When Tiny Tim declares, “God bless us, every one!” in A Christmas Carol, he’s emphasizing that he wishes blessings bestowed on each individual present. If Charles Dickens were to have declared that all the revelers in the Cratchit household repeated the statement in unison, he would have written something like this: “Everyone affirmed the blessing by repeating it as with one voice.” Everyone means “all of them.”

No one/Noone (or No-one)

“No one” is the only correct form in American English (and is fading in usage in British English), whether one is a pronoun or an adjective: “No one is home”; “There is no one right way to do it.” Noone and no-one are erroneous.

No body/Nobody

The phrase refers to the lack of the presence of an animal’s living or dead physical form: “No body was lying in the room when I entered it this morning.” The compound means simply “no person,” and usually indicates a class of people whose commonality is their exclusion from another class: “Nobody saw it last night, either.” (Nobody can also be a noun meaning “nonentity, inconsequential person”: “Ever since his last film flopped, he’s been a nobody.”)

Note that in each case, the two-word phrase consists of a noun preceded by a modifier, and the one-word compound (with the exception of the noun sense of nobody) is a pronoun, a word standing in for a proper or common noun. The commonsense takeaway is that use of the phrase forms is exceptional; usually, it’s the pronoun you’re looking for.

This article first appeared on DailyWritingTips.com.

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