'Over Time' or 'Overtime': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on March 20, 2023

'Over time' or 'overtime': which one should you use? After all, both words look very similar. But they both mean very different things. Let's find out more.

In short:

  • 'Over time' means "gradually over a period of time."
  • 'Overtime' refers to additional hours worked, the rate of pay for excess hours, or extra time added at the end of a sports match.

What is the Difference Between 'Over Time' or 'Overtime?'

The words' over time' and 'overtime' do indeed have completely different meanings and are different grammatically, too. In fact, when I say "words," that isn't entirely accurate. 'Overtime' certainly is a word, but 'over time' is a phrase.

So what do each of them mean? I gave an explanation in the introduction, but we'll dive a little deeper into the definition of each word and look at examples for each.

What Does 'Over Time' Mean?

When something happens 'over time,' it means it happens gradually over a period of time, as opposed to suddenly and immediately. It refers to the slow but steady progress that occurs within a non-specific amount of time.

It's an adverb phrase because it contains an adverb ("over"), and even though "time" isn't technically an adverb, both words together act as an adverb.

What Does 'Overtime' Mean?

The word 'overtime' is a noun and can refer to one of three things:

  • Working overtime refers to working beyond the amount of time stated in your contract. These are usually paid at a higher rate.
  • In this sense, the word can also be used to refer to anything or anyone working extra hard.
  • The pay rate for each hour (or agreed-upon segment of time) of overtime work is also called 'overtime.'
  • When additional time is tacked on at the end of a sports game, that's 'overtime.'

For example:

  • A soccer match is usually 90 minutes, but extra minutes will sometimes be added on at the end of time that was lost during the game, due to an injury, for example.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Over Time' and 'Overtime'

To make things even trickier, 'over time' and 'overtime' is pronounced exactly the same.

Here's how to pronounce both words using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA):


It sounds like this:


Examples of When to Use 'Over Time'

So now we've learned the meaning of the phrase 'over time,' let's take a look at some example sentences of how to use it:

My dog Brutus was hard work when I first got him, but he's relaxed over time.

Initially, I wasn't sure about my coworkers, but I've grown closer to them over time.

Over time you get used to early mornings when you have a baby.

My personal trainer is teaching me how to grow muscle over time.

Over time and with practice, he came to be an incredible pianist.

Examples of When to Use 'Overtime'

And what about 'overtime'? We'll have a look at some example sentences using that word now. Remember that it can have three different meanings, so I'll use all three of those meanings in the examples.

I'm so tired; I've worked ninety hours overtime this month.

I need to speak to my boss; I didn't get paid overtime on my last paycheck.

The commentators have announced four minutes of overtime.

Can we discuss overtime pay before I agree to anything?

As a smoker, my lungs worked overtime to clear my airways.

Concluding Thoughts on 'Over Time' or 'Overtime'

I hope that the difference between these two words makes more sense to you now. Remember that 'over time' is an adverb phrase because it contains the adverb 'over' and that phrases are always made up of more than one word. This might help you remember the difference between the spelling for each.

But if in doubt, you can always come back to this article. We also have tons of other articles on confusing words, so don't hesitate to check those out too. Improving your English doesn't have to be hard!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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