Do you eat breakfast every day or everyday? The word everyday describes things that are commonplace or ordinary, and the phrase every day indicates that something happens each day. Everyday answers the question what kind? For example, in the sentence “Wear your everyday clothes,” the word everyday tells you what kind of clothing to wear.
Every day answers the question when? In the sentence “He walks every day,” the phrase every day notes when he walks. If it’s possible to substitute the phrase each day into the sentence, every day is the correct choice. For example, it would also be correct to say: “He walks each day.”
Parts of Speech
p>Everyday is an adjective meaning ordinary or commonplace. In the example “everyday clothing,” everyday describes clothing (a noun) that’s ordinary or not reserved for special occasions. Similarly, an “everyday dinner” is something eaten on a regular basis, not something literally eaten each day.
A noun almost always follows the word everyday in a sentence. The only exception is if the noun has other adjectives that describe it. For example, in the sentence “She couldn’t find her everyday black shoes,” everyday comes before the adjective black, but both describe the noun shoes.
On the other hand, every day is an adverbial phrase made up of the adjective every and the noun day. Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, but not nouns. In the sentence “The dog roams every day,” the phrase every day describes the verb roams by saying when it happens.
Examples from Literature
An excellent example of the proper use of both everyday and every day can be found in the following quote from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: “They could not every day sit so grim and taciturn; and it was impossible, however ill-tempered they might be, that the universal scowl they wore was their everyday countenance.” In this example, every day tells when they sit, and is easily replaced by each day. Everyday describes the noun countenance (the way their faces regularly look).
In some cases, everyday and every day have very similar meanings. When this happens, how the word or phrase is used in a sentence is the only way to know which choice is correct. In 1984, George Orwell writes: “Reality only exerts its pressure through the needs of everyday life.” In this example, everyday means daily, the ordinary life that each person lives day to day. Everyday is the correct word to use because it describes the noun life.