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Question

According to this post, the following uses of throughout are grammatical, but sound strange to native speakers(or maybe even wrong according to a comment on the post):

  • throughout today
  • throughout yesterday

I have two questions that the post didn't give an answer to:

  1. Why using today and yesterday right after throughout make the phrase sound strange, while using other words (e.g.: the day, an entire day, her life, etc.) does not.
  2. Are there any other words than today and yesterday that make the phrase sound strange when used right after throughout?

My speculation

For the question 1

I speculate the answer to the question 1 is potentially the following:

  • Using today or yesterday is confusing because they're often used as an adverb, as opposed to a noun, which should be used right after the preposition throughout. By the way, throughout can also be used as an adverb, which further complicates things.

But I'm not sure this is an enough reason why native speakers feel a relatively strong sense of strangeness (or even wrongness).

For the question 2

I speculate tomorrow is also make the phrase sound strange because of its similar use to today and yesterday, but other than that I don't have any clue.

throughout example phrases

The following phrases are collected from the web. I'm assuming these uses are grammatical and sound natural.

In most cases, they need to have hay or pasture throughout the day, with additional grain feedings twice a day.

https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/horse-care-guidelines

: lasting for, occupying, or appearing throughout an entire day

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/all-day

The museum is open daily throughout the year.

https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/throughout?q=throughout

The national tragedy of rival groups killing each other continued throughout 1990.

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/throughout

troubled her throughout her life

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/throughout

Movie music can be made memorable because its themes are repeated throughout the film.

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/throughout

Heavy snow will keep falling throughout the day today, forecasts Environment Canada.

https://www.nanaimobulletin.com/news/more-snow-in-the-forecast-in-nanaimo/

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    For me, "throughout the day" and "throughout the day today/yesterday/tomorrow" feel more idiomatic than "throughout today/yesterday/tomorrow". I don't know of a deeper reason than one phrasing being more common than another. Some Google n-gram results
    – nschneid
    Apr 14, 2023 at 1:06
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    @nschneid Thank you for mentioning the phrase "throughout the day today". I think it's good one so I've edited my post and added it to examples. Also, the Google Ngram link is insightful. Some book use "throughout today", so it's normal than I thought? You can check those books by clicking ">" on the page. Although, I understand that the high occurrence of the phrase is because it's often combined with other words, as in "throughout today's world", etc.
    – catwith
    Apr 14, 2023 at 2:21
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    An operation involving both Neighbourhood Policing and Crime Ops took place throughout yesterday after police received intelligence about a suspected cannabis factory. Gloucestershire (UK) Constabulary, 2021 Apr 14, 2023 at 8:47
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    Throughout tomorrow, 2 March, some schools may be affected by ongoing strikes by the National Education Union. also The forecast is similar in Poole, with rain and cold temperatures expected throughout tomorrow. also Shrewsbury incident safely concluded. West Mercia Police news 9 Dec 2022 — Reassurance patrols will continue throughout tomorrow. If any member of the public has any concerns please speak to one of our officers. Apr 14, 2023 at 9:32
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    You frequently hear "throughout yesterday / today / tomorrow / the day" used in radio and TV weather forecasts. Apr 14, 2023 at 13:10

1 Answer 1

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We tend to speak about things happening on a specific date, for example "it's taking place on the 5th of January" or "on Wednesday".

By contrast, a nonspecific "day" is just a unit of time, like an hour or a week etc. It means something different to say an event is happening on an hour - namely that it will occur precisely as the hour strikes.

When we speak about things happening "throughout" a period, we mean a period of time rather than a specific point in time. So it is idiomatic to say "throughout the day" but not a specific date or day.

Also consider that when you speak about things happening 'throughout' a period, you are grouping those things together as if they are a noteworthy collective rather than isolated incidents. For example, if I said "yesterday I went to a festival, and there were musical acts throughout the day" you would understand that the festival was a single event that happened on a specific day (yesterday) but that it comprised of individual musical acts happening throughout. They are different ways of referring to time.

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  • Thank you for your explanation. For the line: When we speak about things happening "throughout" a period, we mean a period of time rather than a specific point in time. What you implied were 1. throughout should be used with a period of time, not a specific point in time. 2. today and yesterday are a specific point in time, not a period of time. 3. Since the points made by 1 and 2, throughout today and throughout yesterday are not idiomatic. Did I get your point right?
    – catwith
    Apr 14, 2023 at 10:25

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