8

Reading an old XKCD comic I found this sentence (you must hover the mouse over the picture to see it):

There are probably children out there holding down spacebar to stay warm in the winter!

I've never heard "in the winter", only "in winter". I've found a discussion on WordReference, where they seem to say that there is not much difference and it comes down to personal taste, but they don't sound like they are sure. The user that asked the question suggests that this might be a difference between American English and British English, but at that point no one answered.

So, what's the difference between "in winter" and "in the winter"?

  • 2
    No difference at all. This is not the kind of thing where there is a difference between BrE and AmE. And that goes for all the seasons. – Lambie Apr 4 '17 at 21:33
  • @Lambie can you put your answer as an answer? – James K Apr 4 '17 at 22:22
5

As Lambie mentions in his comment, there is little (if any) difference between "in winter" and "in the winter", and it's not a stylistic difference between BrE and AmE (or any of the other Es).

Instead it's more a stylistic choice based on what "sounds good" in a particular sentence:

Many animals store up body fat and hibernate in the winter.

Normally this place is pretty drab but in winter it turns into a wonderland of white.

I don't think there are any rules for this, as it may simply be common practice and personal choice.

1

In this sentence "the" is being used to make a generalised reference to something.

Another example would be: "I play the violin." instead of "I play violin."

It is used to highlight that specific thing more than normal.

Adding "the" to the sentence you provided strengthens the idea and significance of that fact that it's winter. That is, it's not a throwaway statement. They even put an exclamation mark on there to further highlight it. I would say the same function can be applied to all nouns which are both countable and uncountable. Like instruments and seasons.

1

No difference at all. This is not the kind of thing where there is a difference between BrE and AmE. And that goes for all the seasons.

in winter, in the winter
in summer, in the summer

Extra info.: but only: in season [fruits and vegetables]

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