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This is from an English textbook for children (private pdf file, so I cannot share the link).

A: What does Carley do in the evening?

B: She does homework in the evening.

What is the role of "the" in "She does homework in the evening."?

When we mention "the evening", we're talking about a specific evening. However, that sentence is about something that happens repeatedly.

Does it mean "She does homework in the evening (the evening that she has homework)." and people just omit "that she has homework"?

What is the difference in meaning between

  1. "She does homework in the evening."
  2. "She does homework in evenings."?

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  • in the evening is a reference to all evenings. in the evenings would refer to specific evenings known to the speaker. Same for in the morning, in the mornings. It's idiomatic. in evenings/in mornings is not used. – AmE speaker Mar 25 '17 at 16:20
  • She does homework evenings with no preposition sounds slightly "dialectal, non-standard" to me. But I'm not sure sure why, since She worked nights at the local hospital doesn't. I'd probably say Carley does homework in the evenings. – FumbleFingers Mar 25 '17 at 16:23
  • @Clare: I think if it conveys anything at all, the article might imply many / most / all of those evenings when the speaker knows what she did. But of course in the real world few people would continue the reply beyond the relevant word homework. For example, the context might be emphasizing that whereas most of her fellow-pupils do their homework immediately before or after school, Carley does hers in the evening (along with the morning and the afternoon, contextualized as making up the (potentially "schoolworking") day. – FumbleFingers Mar 25 '17 at 16:36
  • The has no meaning in and of itself; it's the entire noun phrase that matters. And with general times of day, the meanings are quite idiomatic and must be learned, preferably through exposure to how native speakers use them. (For another example, we say at night but not so much at morning or at evening (two phrases I've probably never said). So there's not much point in asking what at means there.) – AmE speaker Mar 25 '17 at 16:43
  • 2
    Think of it as “in the evening hours” with hours being dropped. – Jim Mar 26 '17 at 5:06
2

She does homework in the evening.

"The" can be used in a lot ways (See M-W). There are two uses that apply here.

"The" can be used for specificity in relation to one component or portion of the whole, or a specific category of something rather than a specific individual thing. If you have a bag of mixed jelly beans, you can talk about the orange ones. If you have a population of people of different ages, you can talk about the children. If you divide a day into morning, afternoon, evening, and night, you can talk about the evening. "The" doesn't refer to a specific example, rather a specific subset or category.

The "category" aspect is closely related to another usage of "the", referring to something conceptually or generically. "The lion is king of the jungle" doesn't refer to a specific lion or a specific jungle. It refers to "lion" and "jungle" conceptually; lion, the kind of animal, and jungle, the kind of place. "The evening" is used in that sense here; evening conceptually, as a period of day.

She does homework in evenings.

"In" is not idiomatic here, but you could say "She does homework evenings."

With no article and the plural, you could argue that it's either a reference to evenings conceptually, similar to "in the evening", or a meaning similar to "She does homework [most] evenings"; a regular activity that happens on many actual evenings.

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in the morning (idiom)

before midday of the next day; tomorrow morning

I'll give you a call in the morning.

between midnight and noon

It must have happened at about five o'clock in the morning.

This site says

If something will happen during the morning of the next day, you can say that it will happen tomorrow morning or in the morning.

I've got to go to work tomorrow morning.

Phone him in the morning.

If something happened earlier in the morning during a particular day in the past that you are describing, you can say that it happened that morning or in the morning.

I was late because that morning I had missed my train.

There had already been a meeting in the morning.

If something happened during the morning of the day after a day in the past, you say that it happened the next morning, in the morning, next morning, or the following morning.

The next morning I got up early.

In the morning we decided to go out for a walk.

Next morning we drove over to Grandma's.

The ship was due to sail the following morning.

More importantly, it says

  1. regular events

If something happens or happened regularly every morning, you say that it happens or happened in the morning or in the mornings.

Chris usually went swimming in the morning.

The museum is only open in the mornings.

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