This is one of those questions that you can find evidence for either choice all over the place. However, upon a closer look, you will see that “summertime” and “summer time” are actually not interchangeable in meaning.
“Summertime” is most often correct as it refers to the summer season or a period that feels like summer, which should be expressed as one word. “Summer time” is only correct when referring to the British Daylight Savings Time and should be expressed as two words.
What is your favorite time of the year? Mine is summertime — or is it summer time? Read on to find out.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Summertime”?
Yes, it is grammatically correct to say “summertime” when referring to the summer season in either America or the UK. However, it would be grammatically incorrect to say “summertime” while specifying daylight-saving time in the UK (source).
Further, you may correctly use “summer times” to emphasize multiple summers or times in the summer.
This leads to a logical question: is it grammatically better to call the summer season “summertime” or “summer”?
You may use either “summertime” or “summer” to name the summer season: “I like to swim in summertime” or “I like to swim in summer.” American English certainly favors the latter, but either one is technically correct.
Americans do not use singular “summer time.” In contrast, “British Summer Time” is the British term for the one-hour-forward time change in spring and summer. When naming the summer season, either “summer” or “summertime” is acceptable in British English.
“Summertimes” is incorrect because “summertime” is an uncountable noun (no plural form). Thus, if you wish to emphasize multiple times in the summer, you can say “summer times”: “of all times for hanging out, summer times are the best.” However, for multiple summer seasons, stick with “summers.”
What Does “Summertime” Mean?
“Summertime” refers to the summer season and is synonymous with “summer.” You can say, “my family always takes a week-long family vacation in summertime.” Still, British English speakers are likely to use “summertime” more than Americans.
You can ask either “what do you like to do in summertime?” or “what do you like to do in summer?” without changing the meaning of the question. However, “summertime” does seem to sound better phonetically as the object of a preposition than “summer.” Perhaps this is why American speakers often say “the summer” instead.
It is important to note that the “summertime” season is not the same as “summer time.” In British English, “summer time” refers to the clock’s time being an hour ahead of standard time to allow daylight later in the evening (source). This “daylight saving time” occurs in late spring and summer, hence “summer time.”
How Do You Use “Summertime”?
“Summertime” is a noun, but it can also function as an adjective. It has the same form as a subject, object, or adjective. You should not capitalize “summertime” unless it is the first word of a sentence. Also, “summertime” does not take an -s in the plural; it is an uncountable noun (source).
As a noun, “summertime” names a seasonal period of time in either the subject or object position. In this form, you are most likely to see it at the beginning or end of a sentence or clause. Since “summertime” is not a person, it is not likely to appear as an indirect object.
As an adjective, “summertime” is immediately before the noun it modifies. See the table below for examples of various ways to use “summertime.”
|Subject||Summertime is the hottest time of year.|
|Object||We like to go camping in the summertime.|
|Adjective||Kids really enjoy summertime fun!|
You may come across instances where “the summertime” seems to sound more accurate than just “summertime.” Why is that? “Summertime” is an uncountable noun — something you cannot count. One does not typically count multiple “times.” Similarly, one does not count “summertime” either.
Still, uncountable nouns tend to take “the” if we need an article to specify a specific one. Thus, it is grammatically correct to say either “in summertime” or “in the summertime”; it comes down to whether you are talking about a specific “summertime” or “summertime” in general.
Either “strawberries are best in summertime” or “strawberries are best in the summertime” work well in the general statement realm. However, “the” is necessary for a more specific statement: “strawberries are best in the Arkansas summertime.”
When Can You Use “Summertime”?
You can use “summertime” anytime you need to refer to the summer season. Tense does not matter here because nouns and adjectives do not change form from tense to tense.
You can say any of the following:
- Past: We enjoyed a float trip in summertime.
- Present: We enjoy float trips in summertime.
- Future: We will enjoy a float trip in the summertime.
In terms of general statements, “summertime” will appear along with the simple present verb: “we only eat watermelon fresh from the garden in summertime.”
In What Context Can You Use “Summertime”?
Though technically correct, “summertime” appears more often among British English speakers than American English speakers. In contrast, Americans prefer “summer” for its concise pronunciation, while British English flow makes “summertime” sound better.
Native American English speakers may use “summertime” to emphasize the time of year that something will be done:
Q: When can we plant pumpkin seeds?
However, Americans are also likely to say phrases like “in the summer” or “in summer” instead of “summertime.”
Occasionally, you may hear American speakers say “summertime” when they are goofing off with a British accent or attempting to sound more sophisticated. Indeed, “summertime” has a more British ring to American ears.
Using “Summertime” in a Full Sentence
Of all the ways to use “summertime,” its use as noun subject and adjective seem to be the most common.
You may place “summertime” at the beginning of the sentence as a subject to describe:
- Summertime is the best time to travel in Canada.
You could also pair it with a subject complement:
- Summertime is beautiful.
Adjectivally, “summertime” helps to specify the time of year for an activity or objective noun:
- Summertime activities are the most adventurous.
You could also use the adjective “summertime” to modify the noun object near the end of a sentence:
- My favorite fruit is summertime strawberries.
As an object, “summertime” will most often appear as the object of a preposition:
- He will be working in camps throughout the summertime.
“Summertime” does not have a plural form because it is an uncountable noun.
When Not to Use “Summertime”
You should not use “summertime” in a plural form because it is an uncountable noun; you can use “summers” instead. Also, avoid using “summertime” in reference to British Summer Time because that should be two words rather than one. Generally speaking, Americans will prefer “summer” over “summertime.”
For whatever reason, a quick search on the internet will break the rules we’ve listed above. Why? How can you know when it is inappropriate to use “summertime”? Keep the following in mind.
If you must refer to multiple summers, it is best to use “summers” because “summertimes” is not a word:
- My grandfather has worked that hayfield for dozens of summers.
Notice how awkward “summertimes” would be in that sentence. “Summertimes” does not need a measure word because it has “times” built-in.
It is also possible to split “summertime” into two in order to accept a plural:
- The summer times of my childhood were the best.
We place emphasis in these instances on “times” with “summer” acting as an adjective.
When referring to the transition of spring to summer and summer to spring, you probably shouldn’t use “summertime” because it carries a sense of full-blown summer weather and everything that’s involved with the summer season. Instead, you should opt for “early summer” or “late summer,” respectively.
British Summer Time
Use “summer time” in reference to the time of year when they set clocks ahead one hour of standard time in the UK. Americans, however, call this “Daylight Saving Time.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Summertime”?
“Summertime” is synonymous with “summer,” so they are interchangeable in the singular form: “summertime is hot” or “summer is hot.” You could also opt for “the summer season”: “the summer season is hot.”
In some regions that have hot, dry summers, the locals may say “the sunny season,” “the dry season,” or “wildfire season.” However, these phrases and others like them do not replace “summertime” exactly because they are location-specific.
In cases where you wish to refer to multiple summer seasons, use “summers” or “summer seasons” because “summertime” does not have a plural form:
- Over the course of three summers, she trained horses for the Humane Society.
If you wish to emphasize multiple “times” of summer, you can use two words:
- They spent much of their evening summer times at the baseball field.
Using “summer times” often comes across as too wordy, but it is possible for emphasis.
American vs. British English
By and large, American English favors more informal forms while British English retains more formal grammar. In addition, the British tend to retain the spelling of words they absorb, while Americans tend to spell words more phonetically. The two also differ in vocabulary and spelling.
When the English brought their language across the pond and the American colonies broke off, no one could have guessed how much American English would differ from British English. Yet, Americans and British speakers have little trouble understanding each other today despite these differences.
The English language that arrived in America between the 16th and 17th centuries was not standardized. Authors largely spelled words however they saw fit. In 1755, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language listed 40,000 words.
Johnson’s dictionary was the go-to authority for English speakers until Noah Webster published the first “American” dictionary in 1806. This marked an important shift in spelling between Britain and America. This difference was further solidified when Webster published An American Dictionary of the English Language with a whopping 70,000 words in 1828.
Differences in spelling are primarily due to British English seeking to retain the spelling of words it absorbs from various languages, while American English works to adapt words to fit English pronunciation better (source). Below is a table of the more common spelling differences today.
|British English||American English|
|colour, honour, labour||color, honor, labor|
|centre, metre, theatre||center, meter, theater|
|traveller, counselling, signalling||traveler, counseling, signaling|
|apologise, individualise, monetise||apologize, individualize, monetize|
|offence, defence, pretence||offense, defense, pretense|
|analyse, catalyse, paralyse||analyze, catalyze, paralyze|
|manoeuvre, paediatric, leukaemia||maneuver, pediatric, leukemia|
|analogue, dialogue, catalogue||analog/analogue, dialog/dialogue, catalog/catalogue|
Obviously, two regions far apart with two different spelling systems will grow to pronounce words differently. Though their pronunciation is different, American and British English speakers can still understand one another quite well.
Since we’ve already covered pronunciation between British and American English extensively elsewhere, we will not cover it here. Check out our article on “Mom or Mum: What’s the Difference?” for tables of examples.
Anyone studying English has likely come across several instances where completely different words describe the same thing. Here are some common vocabulary variations between British and American English:
|car park||parking lot||holiday||vacation|
There are many vocabulary variations between British and American English, but usage is often not consolidated to one region or the other. As a result, some Americans will use British vocabulary and vice versa.
Perhaps one of the greatest differences between American English and British English grammar is collective noun subject-verb agreement. American English considers collective nouns singular, so they take a singular verb: “the family is getting together.”
Conversely, British English grammar treats collective nouns as either plural or singular but favors the plural: “the family are getting together.” Perhaps this is why “summertime” is more common among British speakers than American ones.
The British also tend toward more formal speech, such as using “shall” or past participle forms, while Americans prefer more informal forms like “will” and “should.” This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
However, Americans hang on to “gotten” despite the past participle being long gone in British English (“got”). Further, “needn’t” is common in British English but entirely missing in American speech and writing (source).
Whether you use “summertime” or “summer time” is up to your intended meaning. If you want to describe the summer season, stick with “summertime.” But, if you want to reference times unique to summer, then “summer times” is more appropriate. Otherwise, “summer time” describes the UK’s daylight savings time.
Who knew that such a minute difference could generate such a range of definitions? We can now say, “My favorite season is summer because of the fun summer times that can only happen in the summertime when the daylight lasts longer thanks to summer time.”