Over Time vs. Overtime – What’s the Difference?

Email is far and away the preferred method of communication in today’s professional culture. Given the sheer volume of email correspondence in these environments, it is more important than ever to master the art of professional writing. You don’t want to be the cringe-worthy payroll coordinator who doesn’t know the difference between over time and overtime.

These terms might seem identical at first glance, but they function as different parts of speech. While some readers might not catch a mix-up of these words, rest assured that somewhere in the endless chain of FWDs and CCs, someone is silently judging you.

Continue reading to save yourself the embarrassment.

What is the Difference Between Over Time and Overtime?

In this article, I will compare over time vs. overtime. I will use each term in an example sentence, and I will show you a memory trick to help you remember whether over time or overtime is correct.

When to Use Over Time

Over time versus overtime What does over time mean? Over time is an adverb phrase that describes something which happens gradually. It is not used to describe long hours at a job or an extended period of gameplay in athletics.

Here are some examples,

  • Over time, water carved the Grand Canyon into the landscape of what is now Arizona.
  • My attentional resources tend to dwindle over time, especially when my ethics textbook is involved.
  • Despite initial opposition, Americans came to favor the idea over time.
  • He eventually settled down and married an attractive younger woman who has made fewer and fewer public appearances over time. –The Washington Post

When to Use Overtime

Definition of overtime definition of Over time definitionWhat does overtime mean? Overtime is a noun. It usually means either hours worked in excess of a standard work week or the pay rate for this type of work.

For example,

  • I would rather go home than finish this production run, but at least I am getting paid overtime for it.
  • Janaya has ten hours of overtime already this week; please send her home early on Friday.
  • I can’t meet you for dinner tonight because I’m working overtime.

Overtime can also refer to a period of extended gameplay in a sporting event—something beyond the usually amount.

  • Mark Letestu scored a power-play goal at 3:59 of overtime and former Ranger Cam Talbot stopped 19 shots as the Oilers beat the Devils 2-1 on Saturday night in Newark. –New York Post

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define overtime and define Over time definedThese terms may seem identical, but they are different parts of speech. To decide which one is correct, look at how your sentence is structured: if you use the term as a noun, choose overtime, but if you use it as an adverb phrase, choose over time instead.

Since over time and overtime are so similar, it can be difficult to remember which is which. Thankfully, there is an easy way to remember overtime vs. over time.

Notice that overtime is one single word, like paycheck. If you are referring to extra hours worked that will contribute to a hefty paycheck, remember to spell overtime as a single word.


Is it over time or overtime? Overtime and over time are two different parts of speech.

  • Over time is an adverb phrase, and it is a synonym of the adverb gradually.
  • Overtime is a noun, and it refers to extra hours worked or extra compensation for these hours.

Both overtime and paycheck are spelled as a single word, so remember this similarity next time you need to use either over time or overtime.

These phrases are often misused in informal situations, but by using them correctly, you will bolster your credibility and improve the quality of your writing.