a + (day of the week)

Hello!

I wonder why there's the indefinite article in the sentence below:

It's busy here. I didn't expect it to be, because it's a Monday.

Does the article give the sentence a special meaning different from it being without the article?

Thank you very much.
 
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  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    He is referring to a single day in the subset of days (52 Mondays per year).
     
    Can you give me an example? In what way does the article generalize Monday?

    What is the difference between these two sentences, for example:

    This has happened, because it's Monday.
    This has happened, because it's a Monday.
     

    kitenok

    Senior Member
    Hi michaaal,
    An example where "Monday" means something wholly different from "a Monday":

    A - When should we meet?
    B - It'll have to be on a Monday. I always work Sunday through Saturday.
    Here B is suggesting any Monday.

    A - When should we meet?
    B - It'll have to be on Monday. ...
    Here B is suggesting a specific Monday (probably the next one).
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Can you give me an example? In what way does the article generalize Monday?

    What is the difference between these two sentences, for example:

    This has happened, because it's Monday.
    This has happened, because it's a Monday.
    There is possibly a slight difference, but the essential meaning is the same.
    This has happened, because it's Monday. This happened because it's Monday today and this sort of thing happens on Mondays.

    This has happened, because it's a Monday.
    This has happened, because today is the sort of day [a Monday] on which such things happen.
     

    Suspishio

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've pondered over your second example for quite a long while - and to tell the truth, in that construct, there isn't a significant difference of meaning.

    In your first example, I could see the differentiation I made; in the second - not.

    So I'll leave it at that and hope you're sorted.
     
    Hi michaaal,
    An example where "Monday" means something wholly different from "a Monday":

    A - When should we meet?
    B - It'll have to be on a Monday. I always work Sunday through Saturday.
    Here B is suggesting any Monday.

    A - When should we meet?
    B - It'll have to be on Monday. ...
    Here B is suggesting a specific Monday (probably the next one).
    What if I said:

    I always work a Sunday through a Saturday. (Even though it sounds very odd to me.)
     

    kitenok

    Senior Member
    What if I said:

    I always work a Sunday through a Saturday. (Even it sounds very odd to me.)
    Then I would know that you are not a native speaker of English;) Your intuition is good if this sounds odd to you.

    Articles are a messy business, aren't they? Using an article in your example does not makes sense because in that sentence we are not referring to a single Sunday or Saturday as a representative of the group. We are referring to the group itself: all units of Saturday-through-Sunday.
     
    Yes, articles are a messy business, how do you know it as a native speaker? :)
    Ah, please, help me understand this! I understand that the "a" gives it a general meaning.

    However, why do I say "from Sunday through Saturday," but "we'll have to do it on a Monday," both meaning general days, that is not specific days?
     
    You may find these other threads on the subject useful:

    Tuesday vs. a Tuesday
    A friday
    Tomorrow is a Sunday??
    Thank you cycloneviv, the links are quite useful. I still think there is more to that, though. As I understand it now, many native speakers can't really give a general explanation why in a certain case they will use "a" and in another case they will omit it. Partly perhaps for those are often interchangeable, or there is just a slight and "philosophical" difference, or there is no general rule to distinguish where one should use or not an "a."

    So, let me summarize and generalize what I have so far, and please correct any inaccuracy:

    What day is it? It's Monday. YES
    What day is it?
    It's a Monday. YES
    (They are interchangeable, "a" giving an emphasis on the fact it's the particular day of the week.)

    I work every week from Monday through Friday. YES
    I work every week from a Monday through a Friday.
    NO (I can't use "a" here, because it feels wrong :) Why is it wrong?)

    I work on Monday. YES (Probably the next one.)
    I work on a Monday. YES (I work every Monday.)

    Tomorrow is Monday. YES (The next day is a Monday.)
    Tomorrow is a Monday. YES (Emphasizing the fact it will be a Monday.)

    The party is on Tuesday the 18th.
    YES
    The party is on a Tuesday the 18th. NO (We're talking about a particular Tuesday, not any Tuesday.)

    The 17th is a Tuesday.
    YES (The 17th falls on a Tuesday.)
    The 17th is Tuesday. NO (This doesn't feel right.)

    The 17th is on Tuesday.
    YES (This means that the next Tuesday will be the 17th.)
    The 17th is on a Tuesday. YES (Technically correct. The 17th falls on a Tuesday every month.)

    It was busy, because it was a Monday. YES
    It was busy, because it was Monday. YES
    (They are interchangeable. The "a" only emphasizes the fact it was the particular day of the week.)
     

    Whizbang

    Senior Member
    English - American
    What day is it? It's Monday. YES
    What day is it? It's a Monday. YES
    (They are interchangeable, "a" giving an emphasis on the fact it's the particular day of the week.)
    No. "It's Monday" means "Today is Monday"

    "It's a Monday" means "It's Monday. My day today has been typical of the sorts of days one has when it is Monday. Sigh." "It's Monday," said with the proper tone of voice, could communicate the same sentiment.

    I work every week from Monday through Friday. YES
    I work every week from a Monday through a Friday. NO (I can't use "a" here, because it feels wrong :) Why is it wrong?)
    Right.

    You can also say "I work Mondays through Fridays."

    You are correct that native speakers don't usually know why they use the articles they do.

    In this case, to me, the "a" makes it particular instance. If you habitually work a fixed schedule, then you're not talking about a specific occurrence of Monday or Friday.

    But contrast with the previous example: When you say "a Monday", you're really saying "a typical Monday".

    I work on Monday. YES (Probably the next one.)
    I work on a Monday. YES (I work every Monday.)
    No. "I work on Monday" means "I work next Monday," but "I work on a Monday" is non-sensical. A native speaker will wonder "Which one?"

    Tomorrow is Monday. YES (The next day is a Monday.)
    Tomorrow is a Monday. YES (Emphasizing the fact it will be a Monday.)
    Both of these work.

    The party is on Tuesday the 18th. YES
    The party is on a Tuesday the 18th. NO (We're talking about a particular Tuesday, not any Tuesday.)
    Correct. You've identified which Tuesday with "the 18th" so "a" is unnatural.

    The 17th is a Tuesday. YES (The 17th falls on a Tuesday.)
    The 17th is Tuesday. NO (This doesn't feel right.)
    Both are fine.

    The 17th is on Tuesday. YES (This means that the next Tuesday will be the 17th.)
    The 17th is on a Tuesday. YES (Technically correct. The 17th falls on a Tuesday every month.)
    Both are fine but the reasoning is weird on the second one. "The 17th is on a Tuesday" simply means "the date you are asking about occurs on the third day of the week."

    It was busy, because it was a Monday. YES
    It was busy, because it was Monday. YES
    Both are fine.
     
    Thank you, Whizbang. I thought over it and I think there really isn't any rule of thumb that would help ESL learners determine whether or not to put the indefinite article before the word of a day of the week. Moreover, I think this issue is more about the usage of the indefinite article, rather than days of the week.

    Thank you all for your help.
     
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