a book vs. books

satorio

Senior Member
Korean
Question: What do you do in your free time?

1) I read a book in my free time.

2) I read books in my free time.

This is an essay type question in a Korean middle school. The school says that the right answer is number 2 and answer 1 is not a correct expression. As examples of words to use when you write, probably words such as book and read were presented.
According to the grading teacher, the reason number 1 is incorrect is that in your free time you usually read books(plural), not a single book.

When I actually did a Google search, it turned out to be 6 on 1, 995,000 on 2.
Does number one sound awkward in your ears? And if so, in what respect?
 
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I wouldn't mark (1) as incorrect, but I'd say it's more usual to use the plural as in version (2).

    I suppose the logic is that the singular could be taken as meaning that you always read the same one.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    A. What did you do during/on your break?
    B. I read a book

    A. What do you do at break times?
    B. I read books.

    Your question refers to free time in general, not a specific period. As DonnyB says, you would be unlikely to read just the one book in all the free time you have, and if you do then you would probably name it: I read the Encyclopaedia Britannica in my free time.
     
    Last edited:

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    GENERALISATION:
    I read books in my free time. :thumbsup:
    I read a book in my free time. :thumbsdown:

    PARTICULAR SITUATION:
    When I have a bit of free time, I read a book. :thumbsup:
    When I have a bit of free time, I read books. :thumbsdown:
     

    satorio

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I thought the first sentence could mean, 'I read a certain (different) book in each one of the free times I have.'
    It seems that English native speakers do not take it that way, but take it as meaning the just one book in all the free time you have.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Expanding on my comment in #4, I think the governing factor is context, whether it’s general or particular:

    What do you do in your free time? — I read books.
    What did you do in your free time? — I read a book.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Would not it be okay to answer like the first one for a middle schooler?
    Not really, I think. The present tense "do" can really only be used for an habitual action here. "What did you do...?" can be answered with (1) (with "read" being the simple past tense rather than the present tense), and "What will you do...?" could be answered with "I will read a book". If you happen to ask the question during a period of free time, then the question could be understood as referring to that particular period, but the most natural answer in that case would be "I am reading a book".
     

    satorio

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I am grateful to all of you for taking the time to answer me.

    In fact, it seems to me that it was not easy for Koreans who are not native speakers to choose between a book and books.
     
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