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Is “Everyday” One Word or Two?

Did you know compound words have different forms? The meaning of a compound word sometimes changes depending on its form. It’s essential to know which form holds the definition you desire to maintain clarity in your writing, such as with the term “everyday.” Is the correct use “everyday” or “every day”?

“Everyday” and “every day” are both grammatically correct, but they are entirely different terms. “Everyday” is a compound adjective we use to describe something as commonplace. However, we use “every day” as an adverb phrase to note that something happens every single day.

Read on to learn more about discerning the difference between these terms. We’ll review the meaning, everyday uses, and grammar of “everyday.” Then, we’ll also explore compound words and touch on adverb and adjective phrases.

What Does “Everyday” Mean?

The Macmillan Dictionary defines “everyday” as “very common or completely normal” (source). It’s an adjective to describe something as usual or mundane, such as an “everyday activity.”

Using “everyday” in a sentence conveys that its noun is “very common.” The phrase “everyday activity” means the “activity” could happen anytime, thus making the “activity” mundane.

It’s not an indication that the “activity” takes place daily. Instead, it means the “activity” is so regular that one could perform it on any given day.

To help make further sense of this, let’s apply “everyday” to the term “item.” An “everyday item” is something you might see anytime, anywhere. A pen falls under the definition of “everyday item” because you’ll find one anywhere you go, and, chances are, you’ll see one every day. 

Now, that does not mean you actually see a pen every day. You could go days without laying eyes on a pen; however, it remains an “everyday item.” The adjective “everyday” describes the potential to see the noun it modifies every single day.

How Do You Use “Everyday”?

As mentioned before, “everyday” is an adjective. Therefore, you can use it to modify a noun functioning as an object or the subject of a sentence. “Everyday” stays the same whether you use it in the past, present, or future tense.

Here’s “everyday” modifying an object:

  • I like my everyday clothing.

Here’s “everyday” modifying the subject:

  • My everyday clothing fits me well.

These two sentences show the way “everyday” modifies a noun; it comes directly before its attached noun.

The following table shows “everyday” across the three tenses. Note how “everyday” doesn’t change in any of these example sentences.

Past TenseI wore my everyday clothes yesterday.
Present TenseI’m wearing my everyday clothes right now.
Future TenseI’ll wear my everyday clothes tomorrow.

When Can You Use “Everyday”?

Anytime you want to describe something as ordinary, “everyday” is an excellent adjective to use. It’s helpful when talking about ordinary things, such as in the examples above about one’s regular clothing. This compound is also beneficial in the negative  – when someone or something is not ordinary.

“Not everyday” is a compliment we use to highlight someone or something as outstanding. Here are some examples:

  • Veronica is not an everyday mother.
  • That’s no everyday vacuum cleaner.

Using “everyday” alongside “no” or “not” means the attached noun is not common. More than that, however, the implication of “not everyday” goes beyond uncommon. It means the subject is exceptional and surpasses the usual standard.

In What Context Can You Use “Everyday”?

“Everyday” is helpful in any setting where you might discuss ordinary things, and place or circumstance does not limit it. It’s better for casual conversations about general topics, such as one’s household routine, rather than in-depth discussions over specific subjects, such as teaching calculus.

Deep topics like calculus don’t pertain to common knowledge, and “everyday” does not fit into this context. On the other hand, casual writing and conversations tend to cover surface-level topics, which anyone can relate to, thus making them “completely normal” or “everyday.”

Using “Everyday” in a Full Sentence

This adjective must come directly before its noun in a sentence. While some adjectives appear after the noun, as in “My clothes are comfortable,” you can’t do the same with “everyday.” Do not use it with “is” or “are,” as seen in the examples below.

  • My clothing is everyday.
  • My clothes are everyday.

The correct way to write these sentences is with “everyday” immediately in front of “clothing” and “clothes.” These sentences also need another adjective before they’re complete.

  • My everyday clothing is comfortable.
  • My everyday clothes are comfortable.

When Not to Use “Everyday”

Do not use “everyday” when trying to say something happens every single day (that would be “every day”). Also, don’t use it to modify pronouns or nouns that refer to a living organism. Pronouns and living beings are unique and individual, so the description of “typical” is not applicable.

A good rule of thumb for “everyday” is that if something has a name, it is not common. The “Grand Canyon” is not an “everyday Grand Canyon.” Your friend Robert is not an “everyday Robert.” Designating a person as “everyday” can be insulting.

Likewise, living beings are not ordinary, even if many exist. So it doesn’t make sense to say “everyday dog” or “everyday tree.”

This applies to occupations and relationships as well. Don’t say “everyday teacher” or “everyday brother.” These examples are all nouns, but they’re referring to something specific and unique, so the description of “common” does not apply.

What Can You Use Instead of “Everyday”?

The words “mundane,” “usual,” “commonplace,” “average,” and “run-of-the-mill” are suitable substitutes for “everyday” (source). Other synonyms work as well.

We use each of these in the same way as “everyday.” Look at these sentences to see these synonyms standing in place of “everyday.”

  • The desk held everyday objects.
  • The desk held mundane objects.
  • The desk held commonplace objects.
  • The desk held average objects.
  • The desk held run-of-the-mill objects.

The term “usual” also needs an article to define its noun.

  • The desk held the usual objects.

“Average,” “mundane,” and “commonplace” sometimes come after the noun. They aren’t required to stand before it but need a linking verb like “is” or “are” to complement the noun.

  • The objects on the desk are average.
  • The object on the desk is mundane.
  • The objects on the desk are commonplace.

What Does “Every Day” Mean?

“Every day” is an adverb phrase, meaning it’s a phrase that modifies a verb. “Every day” designates something that takes place every single day and is a two-word phrase, not an open compound. “I brush my teeth every day” and “I brush my teeth every single day” both mean the same thing.

The distinction between “everyday” and “every day” is subtle, but it’s essential to understand. “Everyday” only modifies nouns, and “every day” only modifies verbs. Also, something that happens “every day” is an “everyday” occurrence, but something that is an “everyday occurrence” does not necessarily take place “every day.”

Let’s use a couple of examples to help explain this concept. 

  • Drinking coffee is an everyday occurrence for Steve.

The entire event of “drinking coffee” is assigned to the noun “occurrence,” which means the term “occurrence” is now synonymous with “drinking coffee.” Even though “drinking” is a verb and cannot receive “everyday” as a modifier, “drinking coffee” takes the description of “everyday” through its designation as the “occurrence.”

That said, just because “drinking coffee” is an “everyday occurrence” does not mean it happens daily. Because of this, it cannot take the modifier “every day.”

  • Steve drinks coffee every day.

This sentence reflects the first but uses “every day” to describe the verb “drinks.” You can see the similarity between the terms in these two sentences. Because it happens “every day,” Steve’s coffee habit in the second sentence is also an “everyday occurrence.”

The critical difference between the two terms is that “everyday” describes the potential for something to occur every single day, whereas “every day” clearly illustrates that something happens every single day.

Open, Closed, and Hyphenated Compounds

These are the three forms of compound words in English grammar. Open compounds consist of two separate words, closed compounds are two words together with no space between them, and hyphenated compounds have a hyphen between the two words that make the compound.

Not all compounds are correct in all three forms. Some take only one or two forms, such as “everyday.” If you’re unsure which form to use in your writing, check a dictionary to find the proper form and definition for the compound you want to use.

Open Compounds

When a compound is first created, it starts as an open compound. Even though we write them as two separate words, they have a singular meaning. Here are a few examples of open compounds.

The following terms are open compounds:

  • Time frame
  • Ice cream
  • Living room
  • Peanut butter

Closed Compounds

Once an open compound becomes an everyday term, it sometimes transitions into a closed compound. The once-separate words are now pushed together into one continuous word.

Here are a few closed compounds:

  • Racecar
  • Sunflower
  • Notebook
  • Fireman

Head to our article “Is “Summertime” One Word or Two?” to see a compound that, like “everyday,” is only correct in its closed form.

Hyphenated Compounds

Sometimes, instead of becoming a closed compound, an open compound becomes hyphenated once it is familiar. Notice that a hyphen links the words of the compound, thus the name “hyphenated.”

You should hyphenate two-digit numbers when writing them since they are compounds in their word form. These are a few examples of hyphenated compounds:

  • Forty-seven
  • Long-term
  • Two-fold
  • Check-in

Hyphenated Compound Adjectives

Some two-word adjectives become hyphenated compounds when we use them as an adjective but are not hyphenated when we use them as a different part of speech. The use of “two-word” in the previous sentence exemplifies this.

For instance, the phrase “too tight” is not a compound, nor is it hyphenated, but if we use it as an adjective describing the noun after it, “too tight” becomes a hyphenated compound.

Here, we use “too tight” normally:

  • These shoes are too tight.

Here we are using it adjectivally so that it takes a hyphen:

  • The too-tight shoes hurt my feet.

These terms are called adjective phrases or multiple-word adjectives, which we’ll discuss alongside adverb phrases in the next section.

What are Adverb and Adjective Phrases?

An adverb phrase is a unit of one or more words that form an adverb unit, one of which is itself an adverb (source). An adjective phrase is the same, except with an adjective instead of an adverb.

Adverb Phrases

Despite consisting of multiple words, adverb phrases all modify one verb. These phrases usually consist of one adverb and at least one intensifier, such as “extremely” or “very.” 

Here are some examples to see how they work:

  • The professor talks extremely fast when he’s nervous.
  • We walked very quickly across the dark room.
  • That window display changes every day.

Check out our article “Is “A Lot” One Word or Two?” if you want to see an example of an adverbial phrase in greater depth.

Adjective Phrases

Adjective phrases perform the same function as adverb phrases, only they modify nouns instead of verbs. As mentioned above, adjective phrases often take a hyphen when we use them before the noun.

Take a look at these sentences to get an idea of how to use them:

  • That stew was incredibly tasty.
  • That vicious-looking dog scared me.
  • The walk home felt much shorter yesterday.

Note that adjective phrases are different from using two adjectives back to back. Two unique adjectives are two completely different words separated by commas to describe one noun, whereas adjective phrases are multiple words that act as a singular adjective unit.

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Pay attention to the adjectives we use in the following sentence compared to the hyphenated adjective phrases in the examples above.

  • The giant, furry bear seems docile in its zoo enclosure.

Final Thoughts

If closed compounds and adverb phrases were foreign to you, they’re not anymore. The best thing you can do to integrate these concepts into your writing and speech is to use them every day.

And now that you know the difference between “everyday” and “every day,” you can confidently use both terms in everyday conversations.