18

Today is Friday. Tomorrow is the weekend.

In terms of grammar, how is the definite article justified there?

We say:

  • It's noon.
  • It's 12 o'clock.
  • It's August.
  • It's 2019.

But we also say:

  • It's the 23rd of the month.
  • It's the 21st century.

According to Wikipedia:

The definite article is used to refer to a particular member of a group or class. It may be something that the speaker has already mentioned or it may be something uniquely specified.

This explains the day of the month and the number century. Yet today is Friday — no article. Just any old Friday. But tomorrow is the weekend — definite article. Though also just any old weekend. So why “the”?

  • 6
    This week has only one end, which is the end of this week. It's uniquely specified, because you've anchored it with "tomorrow". – Greg Lee Aug 23 at 6:42
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    May be wrong but this my rationale : I think it like a rule "Saturday" already somehow implies a "the", "the day of Saturn". Also as all proper nouns (with a capital letter), you don't use "the". You usual say : "I know John Hennig", not "I know the John Hennig". or "Let's ask on Stack Overflow". Not "let's ask on the Stack Overflow" (even though there are only one). For numbers it's a specific rule as well : you use the before ordinals like 12th, not cardinal numbers like 12. All other unique cases should use "the". – Pacopaco Aug 23 at 6:59
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    @JohnHennig Yep, also it's working for capitalized events like : it's New Year, it's Christmas, it's Shabat, but : it's the birthday of Pacopaco – Pacopaco Aug 23 at 7:23
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    However this explanation doesn't explain why we say it's noon, it's midnight, but it's the afternoon, it's the night. I think I'll write Noon and Midnight from now on :D – Pacopaco Aug 23 at 7:27
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    For all examples I can think of, 'the' is used for time spans, and not used for specific points. This shows why 'the noon' is weird, but 'the afternoon' is fine. There may be counterexamples I'm missing, though. Only for common nouns, of course, as shown by Pacopaco. – Phlarx Aug 23 at 18:17
11

Weekend is Just Another End

While weekend may be a time expression, it is relatively new to the language. Until Saturday became only a half day of work in England’s industrial North, there was no need — a worker’s free time was Sunday, and that was it:

In Staffordshire, if a person leaves home at the end of his week’s work on the Saturday afternoon to spend the evening of Saturday and the following Sunday with friends at a distance, he is said to be spending his week-end at So-and-so. — Notes and Queries, Fifth series, vol. 12, July–Dec. 1879.

As a compound noun of recent provenance, then, it shouldn’t be surprising that weekend behaves in some syntactical contexts as its final element, i.e., when and where it requires the definite article:

In British English:

Great business plans begin at the end. — Summary of David Lavinsky, Start at the End, 2012, 2014.

If I'm offered a job on Friday, we can make plans at the weekend. — Ruth Dudley Edwards, The English School of Murder, 2000.

In American English:

And like their neighbors, they had a long gray wooden pier with a small seating area with a tin roof on the end. — Fannie Flagg, The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, 2013,10.

The seed for Disneyland was planted when Walt would take his daughters, Sharon and Diane, to an amusement park or to Santa Monica Pier on the weekend. — Keith Abraham, It Starts with Passion: Do What You Love and Love What You Do, 2019.

In all flavors of English with until:

As they fight for their lives and race for their freedom, they'll discover that what they truly need in order to survive until the end. — Tracy Ward, Until the End, 2013.

Headline: Belgian heatwave: Thalys train service disrupted until the weekend. — Brussels Times, 26 July 2019.

And during:

The background music during the end is Mind Over Matter by Dottie from the Pee Wee movie. I'm too lazy to look up her name. — World of Prank Calls, 24 Mar. 2019.

The music during the weekend was spectacular. — Event Review: Rose City Blues 2013, Blues Dance World, 21 Nov. 2013.

As subject:

I'm currently 2nd... The end will be exciting! — Pictame.com, 6 April 2019.

So while the weekend will be exciting for the players, it can also be an exciting glimpse into the future for the organization. — Prospect Camp Weekend Has Arrived – Moose Jaw Warriors, 23 May, 2013.

As object:

If the world should stop revolving, spinning slowly down to die, I’d spend the end with you. — David Gates, “If,” 1971.

She wasn’t content to spend the weekend with the most eligible hunk in the western hemisphere. — Rita Clay Estrada, One Wild Weekend, 1999, 98.

Adverbial, Attributive Use

When used adverbially with a demonstrative or temporals like next or last, weekend behaves like a month:

next/last/this August
next/last/this weekend

Just as you can’t say

*We’re planning a trip to Iceland *June (this/for/in June)

you can’t say

We’re planning a trip to the countryside *weekend.

And you’re back to the prepositions above.

Except today, yesterday and tomorrow, which require a possessive (tomorrow’s flight), and those that take a -long compound (day, month, year) weekend can be used attributively as other time expressions:

We’re planning a Sunday/morning/July/weekend trip.

  • You claim that weekend behaves like a month but it also works that way with the day of the week, holiday, season and year. Next/last/this Monday/week/summer/Christmas/year. We just normally avoid the definite article with the determiner "this" and the adjectives/adverbs (I don't know which) "next" and "last" – Mari-Lou A Aug 23 at 18:52
  • @Mari-LouA: What I was aiming for was that neither a month nor weekend can be used absolutely, unlike weekdays or holidays, so it was just economical to compare the two. – KarlG Aug 23 at 19:23
  • @John Hennig: I got a hit from an Indian author and one from from another source that considers "it's weekend" common. I've never heard it myself. – KarlG Aug 23 at 19:25
8

We also say, "Today is the 23rd of August," and then we turn around and say, "Today is August 23rd," sans "the," but I digress.

For whatever reason, indicating time has its own set of grammatical rules in English, in all the romance languages, as well. What I would surmise, though, is that "noon" and "midnight" are nouncount nouns, which we treat as singular for verb conjugation but plural when it comes to articles, thus no "the," whereas words like "weekend" and "month" are not noncount nouns. The fact that they are not nouncount nouns but count nouns is why the article "the" is justified beforehand. This even explains why "the" is used in "Today is the 23rd of August" but not in "Today is August 23rd," being that the former implies the count noun "day" after "23rd" but the latter makes no such implication but is the actual proper name of the day.

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    "Today is August 23rd" sounds specifically American English to me, I think I would always say "Today is August the 23rd" – llama Aug 23 at 18:00
  • Can you explain "plural when it comes to articles, thus no "the,""? The plural definite article is still the, as in the houses. It's the indefinite article that becomes a zero article in the plural. – oerkelens Aug 23 at 18:51
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    In some instances we use it, but we often eliminate it. We can, for example, say, "Give people a chance," but we can't say, "Give person a chance." In the latter, an article is required. – Benjamin Harman Aug 23 at 22:06

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