Recommended level: Upper intermediate
"Anyway" has four main functions:
Changing the focus or topic of a conversation ("We had a great time at the concert. Anyway, what's new with you?")
Indicating that you want or need to end a conversation ("That's great news! Anyway, I should probably get going.")
Indicating or asking about the real reason for something ("I didn't want to spend money on that anyway.")
Showing support or contrast for what has been said before ("It's not a good day for a walk, and anyway, I don't have the energy for it.")
Synonymous words and phrases for "anyway" include "in any case," "at any rate," "in any event," and "regardless."
Note: The key details in this resource are taken from 300 Practical English Words and Phrases.
"Anyway" is one of the most common transition words in English conversation. In general, it links one idea to another, or changes the focus of what we are talking about. In a sense, "anyway" is a "glue word," which means it helps our ideas stick together. This makes "anyway" incredibly useful and valuable, as it can help us keep a conversation going for a longer period of time. This is great for English learners who want to sound more natural and fluent when they are talking to someone.
By reading and interacting with this resource, you will become more confident and comfortable with using "anyway" when you speak English.
Let's begin. Here are the four main functions of "anyway" in English conversation.
1. Changing the focus or topic of a conversation
If you want to change or shift the focus of a conversation, use "anyway." For example: "I liked that movie a lot. Anyway, what did you think of it?" In this case, we are not changing the topic of the conversation; we are shifting the focus from my opinion of the movie to your opinion of it. You can also shift the focus of a conversation to something you were talking about earlier. For instance: "I'm going to see a movie with some friends tonight. Anyway, you were saying something about your sister?" For this usage, it is common to ask a direct question after "anyway," or to use a declarative sentence with question intonation, as in the second example above.
Of course, you can also use "anyway" to change the topic of a conversation completely. For example: "How was your day?" "Okay. I just worked a lot. Anyway, did you get the email I sent you?" In this case, we have moved from talking about our day to asking our friend if they received the email we had sent them.
Changing the topic of a conversation can be very useful if we feel uncomfortable, awkward, bored, or uninterested during a social interaction. In the case of being bored or uninterested, we don't want to make the other person feel bad, and it is possible to still sound smooth and polite. For example: "...and that's why my favourite colour is yellow." "That makes sense. I really liked yellow when I was a kid, too. Anyway, can I ask you something about your car?"
Here are some other examples of changing the focus of a conversation with "anyway":
"I didn't think the test would be that hard. Anyway, what did you want to talk to me about?"
"Yeah, I've been to that store a million times. Anyway, tell me about your new job!"
"The weather's been hell this week. Anyway, how was your vacation?"
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, but I'll figure it out. Anyway, I heard you applied to university?"
Now it's your turn. Change the topic or focus of these conversations by using "anyway."
"We had a really good time there. Anyway,..."
"I wish the city would do a better job of cleaning the streets. Anyway,..."
"Maybe one day I'll go there. Anyway,..."
2. Indicating that you want or need to end a conversation
Sometimes, it's hard to end a conversation smoothly. In cases like these, "anyway" is a great transition word. Use it followed by the reason you need to end the conversation, by saying something polite and genuine, or by simply saying that you need to go. Take a look at the following examples, which are all in the middle of a conversation:
"I hope so! Anyway, it was nice seeing you, and I hope we can do this again soon."
"I'll send you the details. Anyway, the bus leaves in 10 minutes, so I've got to go for now."
"I didn't know that. Anyway, I really need to go, but let's talk again tomorrow."
"Thanks again for the info. Anyway, I don't want to be late for work. I'll see you tomorrow?"
"That sounds great. Anyway, I should probably get going. My kids are waiting for me."
Now it's your turn. End the following conversations by using "anyway."
"I had a great time. Anyway,..."
"I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I'm not too worried about it. Anyway,..."
"I hope everything goes well. Anyway,..."
3. Indicating or asking about the real reason for something
For this usage, "anyway" is usually used at the end of a sentence. For instance, if someone asks "What are you doing here anyway?", they are asking about the reason for your presence. You can also use "anyway" in declarative sentences with this usage, as in "I'm glad we didn't go. I wanted to save money anyway." When we use "anyway" in this way, we often want to state or ask the reason for, method of, or cause of something.
Here are some more examples:
"How did you do that anyway?"
"I'm glad we didn't buy it. I never wanted that car anyway."
"Why did you break up with him anyway?"
"That's not why I did it anyway."
Now it's your turn. Give a reason for these situations and end them with "anyway." Note the example answer for the first question.
"I'm glad I didn't get that job..." (Ex: "They didn't pay enough anyway.")
"It's a good thing you changed schools..."
"We're not friends anymore..."
4. Showing support or contrast for what has been said before
Remember when I said that "regardless" was a good synonym for "anyway"? This is one of the best cases of this usage, and it crosses over with usage 3 in some ways. Note the example: "Edward thinks this is a great idea. Anyway, I don't think we can trust him because of his history of lying." In this case, we are saying that it doesn't really matter if Edward thinks it's a good idea. He has a history of lying, so I am hesitant to trust his opinion. This shows contrast between Edward's opinion and Edward's character.
We can also show support for our decisions with "anyway." For example, "She wants to improve her cardio, and she already walks to work anyway, so she has started waking up earlier and taking a longer route to the office." Note the use of "anyway" in the middle of the sentence here. Here are a few more examples:
"I don't like the colour of these pants, and they're too expensive anyway."
"I know you don't get along with your sister, and that will make the trip a little more challenging, but you should go anyway!"
"The apartment is in a beautiful neighbourhood, and anyway, it's much closer to your workplace than your current apartment."
"You can have it. I don't want it anyway."
Now it's your turn. Finish these sentences with "and anyway" to show support for the first part of each sentence. Note the example answer for the first sentence.
"It's too expensive, and anyway,..." (Ex: "It's too expensive, and anyway, it doesn't fit me.")
"It wasn't a good school, and anyway..."
"She's not a good fit for the job, and anyway..."
Anyway, that's it! I hope you now have a better understanding of this versatile word. In summary, remember that--in general--"anyway" is used to shift the focus of a conversation. It's like saying "regardless of anything else we have talked about," and can be used to help you change the topic of a conversation, end a conversation, focus on the cause or reason for something, or to add support or contrast to your ideas.
I hope you enjoyed reading and interacting with this resource. If you are still reading, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Finally, to learn more English filler and transition words such as "so," "well," and "anyway," and 297 other common words, phrases, and sentences, pick up a copy of 300 Practical English Words and Phrases.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you success in your studies.