Suppose that I am referring to the autumn of 1900 (Any season or year could've been chosen; I chose 1900 because grammar in 2015 has arguably slackened).

F1. in the autumn of 1900

F2. in autumn of 1900

F3. in autumn 1900

1. The seasons (ie 'autumn') are nouns, so I doubt F1 the least.
2. I doubt F2; how do you determine/deduce if 'the' (the definite article) is needed here?
3. I doubt F3 the most. Since 'autumn' precedes '1900', does 'autumn' function as an adjective modifying (the year) 1900? If so, is this wrong, because 'autumn' is NOT an adjective?
4. Are there even more ways to phrase this?

Obiter dictum: The E in E1 denotes Example. Ngrams appears to support my confidence in F1 over F3, but displays little, if anything, about F2 (for which my doubt was only middling).

  • F1, but you already said that. Not sure what your question is though. Did you find F2 or F3 in actual usage? Even in the ngrams they are negligible.
    – user3169
    Jan 23 '15 at 5:11

I've seen and heard F1 and F3 used, though F1 is by far what you'll most commonly run into. There is only one of each season in the year (if there are more or less, then we have problems) so it is appropriate to say 'the autumn', much like one would say 'the King'.

  • 1
    Interestingly, "in September 1900" is good, so "in autumn 1900" should be too, but people just don't use it. Odd, since we usually shorten where we can. By the way, you run into a problem with winter. It straddles years (that is, in the northern hemisphere—in the southern hemisphere, summer spans years). So to refer to the entire winter, you would need to write "the winter of 1900–1901" (or "the winter of 1899–1900" if that's what you meant.) Notice the en-dashes. Not hyphens, not em-dashes. Jan 23 '15 at 7:25
  • I wonder if the "in autumn 1900" usage is parallel to "in chapter 6". We omit the article because the chapter is assigned a number: it is treated as a proper noun. Jan 23 '15 at 8:38
  • books.google.com/ngrams/… Jan 23 '15 at 11:41

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