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Every day and not everyday

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Sun, 2 Nov 2014 Source: Pacas, Idris

The words EVERY DAY (two separate words) and EVERYDAY (solid compound word) are different. Functionally or grammatically, ‘every day’ is adverbial but ‘everyday’ is adjectival. Every day is an adverb (phrase) of frequency; thus, it tells us how often an event happens (eg, Ama comes to school every day). On the other hand, ‘everyday’ is an adjective that describes an event or something that is common (eg, Power outage is an everyday phenomenon).

But what necessitates a write-up that attempts to explain an elementary grammatical issue at this material time? —The widespread misuse of everyday (the adjective) for every day (the adverbial). Prize examples of such ‘incorrect’ uses come from WAEC, MTN, AIRTEL and more recently the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana.


The Electoral Commission run an ad on TV that informed us that it would be exhibiting the voters register ‘everyday’ from 24 to 30 October. The correct expression here is ‘every day’ because the commission was only telling us how often the voters register would be open for voters to go and cross-check their names.


The second incorrect use comes from the renowned exams council WAEC. Precisely, BECE maths (2013) No. 21 reads as follows: ‘Maame Esi rides her bicycle to school and back EVERYDAY. If the distance from her home to the school is 2345 m, how many kilometres does she cover EVERYDAY?’ The exams council incorrectly used the term everyday in place of EVERY DAY.


In their ad ‘Talk is tasty’, MTN inked the phrase ‘Massive free minutes EVERYDAY’. Again, the ad ‘Talk chaw ankasa’ by AIRTEL contains the phrase ‘get 5 times what you spend as bonus – EVERYDAY! Both uses are incorrect; the telecommunication giants only want to tell customers how often they (the customers) will receive free minutes. Thus, ‘every day’ is the correct word here.


How do we avoid committing this elementary error? Use proper dictionaries [eg, Oxford English Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OED) and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE)]. And painstakingly read the usage guide before going to look for the meaning and uses of words.


Under the headword or entry ‘everyday’, LDOCE states clearly three pieces of useful info: that everyday is an adjective and that everyday is used ONLY BEFORE NOUN and that it (everyday) should not be confused with every day (two separate words meaning each day).

Using the first of the three pieces of info from the above, we notice that EVERYDAY being an adjective means that it can only modify nouns. In modifying nouns or nominals, adjectives must be inserted at specified locations in sentences to enable them do so. Consequentially, some adjectives are used attributively (inserted before the noun) and others predicatively (inserted after the noun). Yet, some adjectives may be used correctly in both positions (eg, This is a TALL man or The man is TALL).


The caution is that some adjectives are only used in one of the two ways (eg, EVERYDAY can be used only attributively). Good dictionaries as mentioned above label attributive adjectives as ‘ONLY BEFORE NOUN’. For adjectives that may be used correctly both before and after nouns but are better used attributively, the dictionary labels them as USUALLY BEFORE NOUN (eg, learned /leenid/ as in my learned friend). Predicative adjectives too are labelled NOT BEFORE NOUN (eg, asleep). These adjectives follow linking verbs (eg, The baby is asleep).


Thus, considering that the word EVERYDAY is an adjective and is labelled ONLY BEFORE NOUN, you must always use it attributively (ie, it must be inserted before a noun). Noting the above-mentioned labels in the dictionary and using words accordingly is the only way to speak/write ‘natural’ English.


Another good example of a widely misused word is TALKATIVE. The word talkative is an adjective. Unlike everyday, TALKATIVE can be used both attributively and predicatively (eg, Abi is talkative or Abi is a talkative lady). TALKATIVE is misused as a noun. For example, it is common to here this: She is a talkative. Impossible! An adjective cannot take an article. To appreciate the oddity of the expression ‘She is a talkative’, replace ‘talkative with another roaming adjective such as tall or big. You’ll get a sentence like this: She is a tall. Such a grammatical construction not only sounds unnatural but is also capable of breaking tympana (eardrums).


Yet, the noun INDISCIPLINE is frequently misused for the adjective UNDISCIPLINED. For example, some people do say, ‘He is very indiscipline’. What such generationally infected persons really mean is that ‘He is very undisciplined. American English (AmE) allows indiscipline (noun) to be inflected as indisciplined and be used adjectively. Thus, ‘He is indisciplined’ is also correct provided one runs into Obama’s territory.


Before saying goodbye to EVERYDAY, we look at EVERYBODY and EVERY BODY. Whereas EVERYBODY is a pronoun meaning everyone, EVERY BODY comprises ‘every’ as an adjective modifying the noun ‘body’. Thus, in the expression ‘every body is to be collected’, the writer means every corpse is to be picked up.

Entering the adverbial zone to see how to use EVERY DAY correctly, we remind ourselves of this basic grammatical rule: adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs but they never modify nouns. Consequently, adverbs or adverbial phrases may be used ‘loosely’ in sentences provided care is taken to prevent them from dangling.


Thus, these expressions are both correct: Every day, Ama comes to school & Ama comes to school every day. In the first sentence, the comma may be deleted without any change in meaning because we notice that an adverbial never modifies nouns. Thus, ‘every day’ modifies the action performed by Ama, and not Ama herself. In the second sentence, EVERY DAY may be seen as modifying the verb ‘comes’ and thus tell us how often Ama comes to school.


In consequence, we should learn to use EVERY DAY whenever an adverbial is required but use EVERYDAY whenever a noun is being modified. Therefore, EVERYDAY and the noun it modifies must both be present in the word group (eg, everyday use). The word TALKATIVE is an adjective that can be used both attributively and predicatively.


Thus, we say that writing is a conscious activity in which writers having some info for the reader consciously put exactly that info on paper for them. A writer should therefore never expect readers to use ‘common sense’ to distinguish between words. Consequently, care must be taken when compounding words (eg, the SECOND HAND of the watch is different from a SECOND-HAND watch).


Long live practising teachers! Long live Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana! Idris Pacas +233 (20) 910 1533 & iddrisuabdulai12@yahoo.com

Columnist: Pacas, Idris