[i] I spent all the day cooking. (CGEL, p.374)
[ii] She worked hard all day. (Webster Learner’s)
[iii] I think about her all the time. (Webster Learner’s)

When I first came across [i], I assumed that the definite article is there for denoting the totally of the day. That is, a particular totality, as well as a particular part, surely could be identifiable and thus would have the article.
However this may not be quite simple as I thought, for [ii] has not the article. So I added another guess that objects need the article, but adverbs not. But this is not good either. As you see, in [iii] all the time has the article and it’s an adverbial phrase. What are the reasons they have or not have the article?

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    I don't know the specific rule, but "all the day" sounds positively old-fashioned to my ears. I think most native English speakers use "All day", "all week", "all year" rather than "all the day". However, "I think about her all time" doesn't work, it needs to be "all the time".
    – evan
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 6:32
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    Unless you were saying "The greatest baseball player of all time", in which case you would definitely say "all time" and not "all the time"...
    – evan
    Commented May 15, 2014 at 6:34
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    I think it's about marked vs. unmarked usages. Commented May 15, 2014 at 12:12

2 Answers 2


While once common, "spent all the day" as a synonym for "spent all day" is now considered archaic by most speakers of American English. It is no longer idiomatic used on its own. I believe it would be considered archaic in most dialects of British and Australian English, as well, although it may survive somewhere as a regionalism.

However, like many archaic usages, it survives in certain set phrases, notably:

All the live-long day

and in some unusual constructions:

All the night through, she tossed and turned.

In general writing, "all day" is correct and will be understood by all native speakers. "All the day" will probably sound archaic, formal, and/or unidiomatic.

"All the day" might conceivably be used in some cases for emphasis, but even here, it would be more idiomatic to say:

The whole day


The entire day


All are okay as you mentioned, they come from authentic sources.

But I think that the the is introduced to avoid ambiguity. If you keep these two words as they are, they may serve as an adjective (though the hyphen is required (all-day), many may simply ignore writing/typing it).


I spent all the day cooking OVER
In this vacation, I'm joining a course call 'All-Day Cooking'. They will teach us cooking different dishes throughout the day.

Consider a good example of baseball from evan where you certainly drop the.

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