Winston Smith lives in a world where everyone is watched every second of the day

Is highlighted "the" the synonym of "every"?

Why do we use "the" here instead of "a"?

  • 1
    This question will get better and more detailed responses on our sister site, English Language Learners. If you want to wait a bit for the mechanisms to kick in, we can move it there for you, or you want things done faster, you could manually remove this question and re-ask is there. The short answer to your question is "the day" is treating all days as one day, in a kind of Platonic ideal kind of way. And on that day, that normative day, everyone is watched all the time. So yes, the effect is that everyone is watched all the time every day, but how that idea is expressed is different.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 13:43
  • You might also google "generic noun phrase" and "John Lawler" for a better explanation of these kinds of phrases. Here's a simple description by John Lawler. Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 5:45

1 Answer 1


It's difficult to explain with fancy grammar terms and the like, but basically what it boils down to is that we use the definite article because on any given day where everyone is watched, we know which specific day it is.

To say "Winston Smith lives in a world where everyone is watched every second of a day." we're not being specific about which day: is it Monday? Three weeks next Wednesday? Yesterday? Non-specificity makes the sentence hard to parse as intended.

  • 2
    "Why the downvote?" he asked, a single tear rolling down his cheek as he promised he could change. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:01

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