Overtime vs over time

and over time are words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often misused or confused; there are many confusing words in the English language that may be easily confused for each other in spoken English and written English. Two words or more than two words, even if they are common words, may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same way or pronounced differently or may be spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or have almost different meanings; they may be homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, homographs, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. Sometimes, confusables are word constructions that are not proper English words. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words that have a different meaning from one another and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any other part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure to learn new words and commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study to understand the difference in spelling and meaning. To learn new words in the English language, one must not only study a spelling words list, one must know the meaning of words in one’s vocabulary word list. It is also helpful to memorize how to correctly pronounce words and to know the etymology of new words or where they are derived from. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell and learn the definitions of words. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a confusable in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Confusables are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables overtime and over time, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Overtime may be used as a noun or an adverb to mean time worked above the usual amount of hours one is expected to work. For instance, if one’s normal work week consists of 40 hours of work and one works for an additional 8 hours, then those 8 hours are considered overtime. Overtime may also mean the overtime pay one receives for additional work. The amount of overtime compensation a worker is entitled to in a pay period varies from country to country and employer to employer. Some receive straight-time pay or a regular rate of pay; others receive time-and-a-half pay. Generally, compensatory overtime pay is awarded to hourly workers, not salaried workers. In many countries, a department of labor sets fair labor standards. In North America, overtime may also mean a period of time added to the end of a sporting event to decide a tie game. The word overtime is a closed compound word and came into use in the mid-1800s.

Over time is an adverb phrase that describes something that happens little by little, something that occurs gradually. The expression over time is an open compound word that exploded in popularity in the mid-20th century.


Public works employees are battling snow fatigue and overtime costs are spiraling as local municipalities prepare for the third major snowstorm to hit the Northeast in three weeks. (Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice)

Noah Williams scored a career-high 40 points and the Washington State men’s basketball team outlasted Stanford 85-76 in triple overtime on Saturday. (Seattle Times)

Perhaps over time the fact and the legend blend into each other, to the point where it is no longer meaningful to tell them apart. (Irish Times)

The group has attracted performers from all over the southern Piedmont and over time a lot of the Salisbury members moved away or stopped performing. (Salisbury Post)

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