During the week, Nate Brakeley works as a data analyst. But on the weekends, he competes with Rugby United New York, the city’s first professional major league rugby franchise, now in its fourth season.

(Source: New York Times article: How a Professional Rugby Player Spends Sundays)

This is the first paragraph of the article. Here, the week and the weekends refer to weekdays and weekends in general, respectively. Note that the week is singular while the weekends is plural. And I agree with these choices of singular/plural forms.

Although I could possibly use singular the weekend instead of plural the weekends, I wouldn't use plural the weeks instead of singular the week. So I'd like to know two things:

a. Do you agree with me on the choice of singular/plural forms?

b. If so, how would you explain that you can allow the weekends to mean "weekends" in general but not the weeks to mean "weeks" in general?

  • 4
    Are you aware of the Old English habit of using of -s (originally -es like the genitive singular) to form adverbs from singular nouns, leaving us today with things like He works days/nights or This is a workingman's jazz club with music and food served weekdays at noon? These tend to be reanalysed as plural nouns today rather than adverbs but they're still used adverbially without strictly needing a preposition.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 3:17
  • 1
    @tchrist How interesting. No I know nothing about Old English. But I don't know why you need to summon no less than Old English to address the issue at hand. 1. Here, we need prepositions such as during and on. 2. the week is not taking the plural form. So I don't know how the Old English bit is helping.
    – listeneva
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 3:27
  • Because you don't really need the prepositions at all to say that someone works weekdays, and that's a holdover from a long time ago. Which is apparently what you meant by "during the week".
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 4:03
  • 2
    @tchrist I know nothing about Old English, but I don't understand your explanation that Old English uses -s "to form adverbs from singular nouns". In an Old English counterpart of He works days, for example, I think he works not just for a single day but for a plurality of days. If so, the -s in days is not some weird device "to form adverbs from singular nouns" but is just indicating the days is plural. Moreover, in Present-day English, I think days is not an adverb but a noun acting as an adjunct (or adverbial). Is there any reason to treat it as an adverb in Old English?
    – listeneva
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 4:51
  • 2
    @YosefBaskin Are you sure 'parallelism' is required in cases like this?
    – listeneva
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 4:21

2 Answers 2

  • Our lives are divided into hours, days, weeks, months, and years.
  • There are 52 weeks in a year.

Here the plural forms refer to facts that are indisputable and immutable.

In the NYT article, the journalist writes

During the week, Nate Brakeley works as a data analyst.

This is about a rugby player's routine, and the singular week specifically refers to the working week (BrEng) / workweek (AmEng) and there is strong evidence that suggests the singular form usually has the upperhand when it follows the preposition during.

During the morning / afternoon / night
During the day / week / month of May / year
During spring / summer / fall / winter

Merriam-webster defines during

1: throughout the duration of //swims every day during the summer

Cambridge's definition is

from the beginning to the end of a particular period. They work during the night and sleep by day.

Lexico offers these examples

  • The mill, which was open to the public during the week, has had its visiting hours slashed.
  • Walking through the city during the morning rush hour can be a bit of a battle.

The plural “during the springs” would not be ungrammatical but it tends to be highly unusual.

With the prepositions “on", "in" and "at" the plural form is more idiomatic.

In the mornings / afternoons / evenings

On Mondays, Tuesdays etc.

At the weekends (BrEng)

On the weekends (AmEng)
See Ngram chart

In the 1980s

With the exception of the seasons, which normally remains singular

In spring / summer / fall / winter

According to Ngram the phrases "in the weeks before" and "in the weeks leading to” are the most common but neither can replace "during the week” as the prepositions before and to are followed by a noun. By doing so the image the journalist seeks to evoke, one of the typical professional working in New York, is spoiled.

In the weeks before training, Nate Brakeley works as a data analyst…
In the weeks leading to the championship,…

  • Not sure about "in" with plural. I think it might be more common with the singular: I would rather say in the morning than _in the morning .
    – fev
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 18:59
  • @fev What I mean to say that the plural form "in the mornings" is more common, compared to "during the mornings”, not in the sense of the most common.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 19:34
  • Oh, I see. Yes, that is definitely true.
    – fev
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 19:55
  • Can you use on the weeks instead of during the week to mean "weekdays" in general? I mean does this work for you? On the weeks, Nate Brakeley works as a data analyst. But on the weekends, he competes with Rugby United New York, the city’s first professional major league rugby franchise, now in its fourth season. Also, can you think of some other examples where on the weeks can mean "weekdays" in general?
    – listeneva
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 3:50
  • @listeneva A week is seven days, so "In the weeks leading up to July, Michael worked hard" This would also include the weekends.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 6:02

During the week, Nate Brakeley works as a data analyst. But on the weekends, he competes with Rugby United New York, the city’s first professional major league rugby franchise, now in its fourth season.

There would be greater parallelism in using on the weekend, which also works and would be prefered by some English teachers. Using countable weekends makes the imagery a little more vivid, bringing a series of separate rugby games to mind instead of a single generic match that needs to be mentally carried forward to fill out however long RUNY's season lasts. Since this writer is presumably trying to write as vividly as possible and to make Mr Brakeley's weekday work seem especially boring to create greater contrast and interest in the article's main topic, you're probably right that the nonparallelism serves those purposes best.

As far as why during the weeks seems wrong, it's because native speakers tend to use that construction for specific sets of weeks: during the weeks of the off season, during the weeks immediately after his birth, during the weeks and months that followed, &c. It's far, far less common to discuss specific sets of weekends in this way and so it's much, much less necessary to cleanly distinguish specific vs. general weekends grammatically.

Even here, though, some speakers would consider that the grammar only works because you've already set it up: the countable weekends are the specific weekends corresponding with the workweeks just introduced in general terms. It works (less well) in reverse, too: On the weekend, Nate Brakeley is just another hooker and prop on a wannabe Yank rugby team. But during the weeks he is an up-and-coming data analyst for one of Wall Street's premier firms, looking for potential profit in markets as diverse as Kentucky soybean futures and Sichuan microchip fabrication.

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