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What is the difference between saying "during summer" and "during the summer"? As in:

  • I work during the summer.
  • I work during summer.

Are both common? Is my feeling correct that the first stresses that I work (only) this summer, and the other is more a general statement — every summer, during summer, but not in (the?) winter?

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If someone said one of those phrases in conversation I'd probably get the meaning by contextual clues and body language or by additional questions. Otherwise, I'd probably think "I work during the summer" means "I only work in summers, not other seasons" and that "I work during summer" means "I don't take off work in summers." I usually wouldn't pin a statement to the current summer unless "this summer" appeared in it. –  jwpat7 Aug 12 '11 at 17:35
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2 Answers 2

As someone commented, I work during the summer could mean a couple of things. It could mean that one works only during the summer. Perhaps it is a student who takes a job, and then explains to his friend:

Yeah, I don't have time to relax during summer break. I work during the summer.

However, this phrase may also take on the meaning that one works during the summer, as well as during winter, fall, and spring.

On the other hand I work during summer usually only implies that one is already working, and keeps working during the summer period. One example of this use might be a summer school teacher. He might say:

My students during the school year are great, but I work during summer to make ends meet.

Interestingly, during the summer is more common than during summer according to this NGram:

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However, you could pretty naturally say either phrase in order to imply what you mean. In context, the listener will figure out whether you mean "summer only" or "including summer".

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To my ear, there is no difference in meaning between the two; "the" doesn't imply any specific meaning in this case. I only hear the "correct" way (during the summer) and the "I understand you but it sounds wrong, or foreign" way (during summer). –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 12 '11 at 20:08
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I disagree with comments and answers saying that including the implies only summer, and not any other times of the year.

To a large extent it makes no difference, but I would say if there is a slight nuance involved, it's because the is the definite article. Which implies a specific summer, not summers in general.

Therefore OP's first version is slightly more suitable where you're only talking about the coming summer. The second version is more suitable if you expect to be working every summer.

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My answer doesn't say only summer. It says it could be only summer, but not necessarily. –  simchona Aug 12 '11 at 19:05
    
My disagreement doesn't say "means only". It says "implies". And I still don't think that implication occurs often, if at all. I think to the extent that there is an intended difference, it's normally the one I've made. –  FumbleFingers Aug 12 '11 at 19:11
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protected by RegDwigнt Jan 24 '13 at 15:23

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