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I am confused about the article usage in the phrase "time of (the) day".

From my research, I understand that "time of day" (day with the zero article) is more common and probably more idiomatic. It's also a part of an idiom not give somebody the time of day. But I'm interested in its more literal usage and sense.

Is there any difference in usage or meaning between "time of day" and "time of the day".

I went to the COCA for examples but I still haven't been able to come up with any reasoning when to prefer one over the other:

With the:

What's your biggest vice? - Dark chocolate. I'll have it at any *time of the day*; it's never too early or too late.

Without the:

These morning menu favorites taste good any time of day

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The second example is incorrect -- it uses the phrase, not the idiom and so should include the definite article. –  Kris Feb 19 '13 at 10:52
2  
It's possibly as simple as a UK / US slewing. Ellipses tend to be more common (and in some cases more acceptable) in the US; they are generally seen as a more informal register in the UK. I'd say the alternatives are quite interchangeable in the examples you've picked, unless you add "said Lady Penelope". –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 19 '13 at 10:57

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If anyone is saying that any time of day is ungrammatical, I have to disagree. Both it and any time of the day can refer to an unspecified point on any day. Additionally, any time of the day can refer to an unspecified point on a particular day.

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Yeah, I also got surprised by other people's answers as they were not what I expected. I think I can find hundreds of examples of this 'ungrammatical' usage by native speakers. If native speakers can't use articles correctly, then should I give up learning them now? :) –  stillenat Feb 19 '13 at 13:52
    
Cobuild have a monograph on the usages of the articles in English. It runs to over 100 pages. Few native speakers have even heard of it, never mind read it (I haven't tracked down a copy yet). If you get one first, you can study it and then tell us how we're supposed to use the things. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 19 '13 at 18:00

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