Should “Next Day” Be Preceded by “the”?

By Maeve Maddox

background image

A reader poses a question about a usage that occurs in one of my posts from 2009.

Calvin Coolidge was in Vermont when President Harding died in California. Coolidge’s father, a notary public, administered the oath at 2:47 a.m. Next day Coolidge returned to Washington where he repeated the oath before Justice A. A. Hoehling.

The question relates to the words in boldface. Says the reader,

I would have used “the” before “Next day.” Can you please explain why “the” isn’t used?

The short answer is that I didn’t think it was needed.

Clearly that’s not the answer the reader was looking for, so I went to my usual authorities on usage. When I could not find a stated rule in any of them, I turned to literature and the media to see if I could extrapolate one.

After browsing a variety of texts, I can state that both forms appear in the writing of universally respected writers.

Some writers, like Melville, use both forms, seemingly randomly—both within sentences and at the beginning.

By the thirteenth of May our ship was ready to sail, and the next day we were out in the open sea, on our way to Ochotsh.

Next day, a large ship, the Rachel, was descried, bearing directly down upon the Pequod, all her spars thickly clustering with men.—Moby Dick, 1887.

The next day the starboard watch, to which we both belonged, was to be sent ashore on liberty.—Typee, 1846.

Jane Austen uses the phrase “the next day” frequently—never without the article and often as a noun.

Some of them were to dine with the Phillipses the next day, and their aunt promised to make her husband call on Mr. Wickham . . .

The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. —Pride and Prejudice, 1813

Huckleberry Finn says “next day” more often than “the next day,” but Huck speaks a nonstandard dialect. I turned to Life on the Mississippi to see what Twain does in standard dialect.

He uses both forms.

I painted the ball of the client’s thumb, took a print of it on the paper, studied it that night, and revealed his fortune to him next day.

Next day, we reluctantly parted from the ‘Gold dust’ and her officers, hoping to see that boat and all those officers again, some day.

I also resolved to connect myself with the church the next day, if I survived to see its sun appear.

Scott Fitzgerald also uses both forms.

. . . when Ferret wandered into the garden it meant he was cleaned out and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably next day. —The Great Gatsby, 1925.

We gave her spirits of ammonia and put ice on her forehead . . . and the incident was over. Next day at five o’clock she married Tom Buchanan . . . —The Great Gatsby, 1925.

He had hoped to find his grandfather dead, but had learned by telephoning from the pier that Adam Patch was comparatively well again—the next day he had concealed his disappointment and gone out to Tarrytown. —The Beautiful and the Damned, 1922

The next day she felt weak and ill.—The Beautiful and the Damned, 1922

If these examples of “next day” seem too dated, here are some more current examples.

Next day, Zara pays a solitary visit to the enlightened young imam and his wife.— Absolute Friends, John leCarré, 2003.

Next day the man goes to his office, hangs up his coat and sits at a typewriter.—Time, 1979.

Next day, it was announced on television at 11 am that I was going to be charged. The Guardian, 2012

The best answer I can give to the reader’s question is that using next day as an adverbial phrase without the article is a stylistic choice.

Compare:

On Monday we toured the Paris catacombs. The next day we climbed the Eiffel Tower.

On Monday we wrote twenty-five postcards. Next day we looked for a post office.

In looking for a stylistic reason to choose between “next day” and “the next day,” I’d say that omitting the article and going straight to “next” suggests a connection between the events being linked that isn’t necessarily there when using the article.

Want to improve your English in five minutes a day? Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily!

Keep learning! Browse the Style category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:


Leave a comment: