EN: a 5 minutes' walk / a 5-minute walk

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Sbonke, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. Sbonke Senior Member

    France, French
    5 minutes walk

    Good morning,

    I'm editing a text and I'm about to amend this to "5-minute walk". But because the author of this text has a good command of English, I wonder: is "a 5 minutes walk" also valid?

    Could someone confirm, or point me to the right place to check on this?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 7, 2011
  2. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    I agree with you and would also think that a 5-minute walk is the only correct solution… But let's wait for the natives! :)
  3. Loopin Junior Member

    Cape Town
    English - South Africa
    Yeah, It's "a 5 minute walk". Same goes for many 5 minute walks. You'd use the plural (minutes) after "for" and before "of" as in "I walked for 5 minutes" and "5 minutes of walking".
  4. Sbonke Senior Member

    France, French
    Thank you both for your answers.
  5. Welshie

    Welshie Senior Member

    England, English
    You can say either "it's a 5 minute walk" or "it's 5 minutes' walk". Being that the apostrophe is often neglected in this sort of phrase, I would suggest that the author subconsciously mixed the two alternatives without noticing :)
  6. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Welshie is absolutely right.

    "A five minutes' walk" (with the apostrophe to indicate the possessive) is completely correct, current, and natural. It also happens to be rather parallel in structure to French (une affaire de 2 minutes)... :p
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2008
  7. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Anyway, if using the adjectival form 5-minute walk, isn't the dash hyphen compulsory?
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2008
  8. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Excuse me, MC, that was a typo and I have corrected it. :eek: I lost the post on submission and had to retype it... obviously too quickly. :( Perhaps you could edit your post to remove the quoted typo and prevent confusion?

    As for the hyphen (not a dash), it would perhaps be preferrable to include it... one often does with compound modifiers, to avoid ambiguity. But at the same time, we are cautioned against using unnecessary hyphens, and there is no real ambiguity in leaving it out... In short, I cannot say whether it is truly mandatory or not. On consideration, I would probably include it most of the time (and definitely if I wrote "5-minutes'" with number)... and I probably just omitted it because I typing quickly, in irritation at having lost the post.
  9. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    So you're saying you would always write it with a hyphen if the number is written with digits? I thought the hyphen was only used between adjectives or nouns used as such… (A 5-minutes' walk looks quite odd to me.)
  10. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    MC is correct.

    The hyphen is used when the adjective is represented by a compound singular.

    So, a child can be two years old but she is a two-year-old (not two-years-old).

    The walk can take five minutes but it's a five-minute walk (not five-minutes walk).

    A tent can hold two people but it's a two-man/-person tent.

    I totally disagree with jann on one point: I would never describe anything as a five minutes' walk. If the article 'a' is included, it's a compound modifier (with hyphen) to describe the noun that the 'a' refers to. (It's a five-minute walk.)

    If you're not using 'a' then you can use "it's five minutes' walk away" or "it's one minute's walk away", where the possessive is used. For me, this is adverbial use where "it [the noun] is [some adverb of location]" such as "the casino is five minutes' walk away".
  11. breagadoir Senior Member

    France since 1984
    English - Ireland & U.K.
    A five-minute walk (a 5-minute walk)
    A fifty-year-old man (a 50-year-old man)
    A two-storey house (a 2-storey-house)
    A three-star hotel (a 3-star hotel)
    A six-hour flight ( a 6-hour flight)
    A ten-dollar bill (a 10-dollar bill)
    A two-day conference (a 2-day conference)
    A five-hundred-and-twenty-two-page book (a 522-page book) The former would most likely never be written.

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