ENGLISCH/911: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (190) An everyday problem (SB)


190. Everyday or every day

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

... Another English language question, that bothers me for some time is the following problem: What is the difference between "everyday" (one word) and "every day" (two words)? Could you please be so kind and explain that for me?


Michez C. (India)


Dear Mr C

Of course, I'll try. Now, you'll probably find in a dictionary that "everyday" is a single word and an adjective and it means something which is ordinary, something which is routine, or something which is usual.

I'll give you some examples: Let's say we are talking about the word "problem". And the problem is something which is ordinary, it happens in a routine way again and again. Then we would say:

"It's an everyday problem."

Or if you want to comfort somebody who just had an accident or cut his finger, you might say:

"These things happen in everyday life."

When people are talking ordinary to each other, in the shop or on the street, they use "everyday language". To put it into a nutshell, "everyday" is the one used in front of noun to describe something as normal or commonplace.

Now, "every day" (two words) isn't simply an adjective. It is the adjective "every" plus the noun "day". Therefore you can't use "every day" in the same ways as you can "everyday". "Every day" is part of an adverbial expression of frequency. And it simply means "each day". For example:

"I brush my teeth every day."
"I travel to work every day."
"Every day I feel a little better."

And that can come at the beginning or at the end of that sentence. You can either say "I travel to work every day" or "Every day I travel to work".

I think the confusion sometimes arises when people realise that they can substitute other time phrases for "today". So they can say "every year", "every month", "every week", "every other day", "every fortnight", "every morning", "every five minutes", "every afternoon". All of those are expressions of frequency.

And they might think that they can do the same for the word "everyday" which is a single adjective. But it is impossible to say "an everymonth problem" or an "everyyear routine".

Also "everyday" is sometimes used instead of "daily" which is correct. For example:

"Jane goes to class every day (each day)."
"Jane has an everyday class (a daily class)."

But it would be wrong to say:

"Jane goes to class everyday."

Does this answer your question sufficiently? I hope it does...


Miranda Gobbledygook

18‍ ‍May 2012