rent cottages for <the?> summer holidays

Discussion in 'English Only' started by TommyGun, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. TommyGun Senior Member


    I am doing grammar exercises, and there is one which caused some difficulty to me.

    Married couples with children often rent cottages by the seaside for (?) summer holidays. The men hire boats and go for trips along the coast; the children spend the day on the beach and the poor mothers spend most of the time doing the cooking and cleaning.

    A. -; B. the.

    I am supposed choose A or B in this exercise.

    I think that A fits, because "summer holidays" carries a generic sense, but B should also fit, because these holidays reference to the holidays of the married couples.

    Which option do you think fits best?
  2. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Oh my. I would honestly say that both answers are equally possible and equally correct in this sentence. They don't quite have the same meaning, but I can't see any way to choose between them.
  3. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    So sorry, but I'd be in favour of "their".
    "The" would be my second best.
    I'd exclude the zero option.

    GS :)
  4. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    The zero option is entirely possible. You can compare it to the no-article before "cottages."
  5. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Hullo, lucas.

    The zero article before "cottages" is perfectly grammatical, but it fulfills an entirely different function. Wouldn't you agree?
    Anyway, the native English speaker is you. :)

  6. Edinburgher Senior Member

    German/English bilingual
    Neither answer is definitely wrong, but nonetheless I would lean strongly towards 'the' (and, like GS, I too would prefer 'their').
    If you omit some of the non-essentials, you end up with "... often rent cottages for holidays". I feel this cries out for something like 'the'. It's too naked without it, and it may be that when you add "summer" this disguises the nakedness a little, but if you look closely through this gossamer-thin covering, you can see that, underneath, the nakedness is still there.

    Lucas: The zero-option before 'cottages' is a different kettle of fish. Were the cottage singular, it would require the singular indefinite article 'a', but since cottages are plural, we use the plural indefinite article, which happens to be ''. The desirability of an article before "summer holidays" is related to the presence of the preposition. Suppose you moved the phrase forward: For summer holidays, families often rent seaside cottages. I fell this also needs an article (and in this instance, since the families have not yet been mentioned, I'd prefer the to their).
  7. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I wonder... is this perhaps because I'm American, and "holidays" doesn't mean "the period in which people take vacations" but instead "vacations" themselves?

    To me "People often go to Hawaii for beach holidays" or "Ski holidays are very popular this year" make perfect sense. But it is because I'm reading "holidays" as "vacations," and not as "the time of vacations."

    In BE perhaps only "the" is the correct answer.
  8. Edinburgher Senior Member

    German/English bilingual
    Your examples make perfect sense to BE ears too. I would accept Families often rent cottages for seaside holidays, and indeed would consider adding 'the' wrong here (generally, not always). The difference seems to lie with whether the qualifying noun specifies the type of holiday (beach/seaside/hiking) or when it is. There is also an ambiguity in the preposition 'for', in that it can govern either purpose or duration. Would you go to Hawaii for the summer vacation or for summer vacation? What if there is no qualifying noun? Would you go for vacation or for the vacation? More likely on vacation.
  9. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    I thought that the difference was between renting the cottage only when they take trips and renting it for the entire time that the children are not in school. Is the latter not "the summer holidays"?
  10. Edinburgher Senior Member

    German/English bilingual
    Yes and no. The children are off school for a long time. I'm not sure how long, but typically at least six weeks. Their parents are generally not so lucky, and might only take two weeks off work. For the children "the summer holidays" would be the whole six weeks, but for the family as a whole "the summer holidays" would be everything associated with "going on holiday"; they would rent the cottage for two weeks.
    Ask the children afterwards "What did you do in your holidays?" and they might answer that they went to the seaside for two weeks. They might then also say something about what they did the rest of the time.
  11. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    We might take more than one summer vacation during the period called "summer vacation", but you would only take one holiday during "the summer holidays"?
  12. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    Has this post been edited? It appears that I am being asked to choose between the word "the" and a semi-colon.
  13. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    To me, "summer holidays" is the same as "beach holidays" - "summer holidays" means "holidays taken in the summer" and "beach holidays" means "holidays taken at the beach."

    Sparky, I think the "-" means "no article" here.
  14. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    Of course! Thanks.
  15. Biffo Senior Member

    English - England
    Yes. That is how I see it. :thumbsup:

    Here is my BE answer:

    A. Married couples with children often rent cottages by the seaside for summer holidays. [Each year they book a cottage for a summer holiday. Over the years they go many times, hence we talk about 'summer holidays'. Each holiday could be for a week or two.]

    B. Married couples with children often rent cottages by the seaside for the summer holidays. [They rent a cottage for the entire school holiday period. They presumably live away from home for the whole time.]

    Both answers are possible. However the first is more likely because of financial and work considerations. The parents may not be able to get the whole school holiday off work.
  16. Edinburgher Senior Member

    German/English bilingual
    Most people would only take one, yes, but of course some, as you say, might take two or more shorter ones instead. In that case, you could obviously not use the definite article to refer to any one of them, unless context were otherwise to make clear which one was meant. I would then still rather see a different determiner than none at all.

    Again, I think part of the problem lies with 'for', which seems (in the context of any particular family - as opposed to families in general) to want to focus on one particular excursion.

    On the other hand, if one were taking a wider view, still within a one-family context, but spanning a period of several years, then one might talk about one's general holiday habits. In that case I would find a determiner less necessary. We normally spend summer holidays by the seaside and winter holidays skiing.
  17. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I like this answer. However, in my version of AE I would say "summer vacations" in the first sentence and "summer vacation" (no article) in the second.
  18. TommyGun Senior Member

    Thank you all for this meaty and nourishing discussion, the things have become certainly more clear!
  19. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    If this is a UK text, it seems clear enough to me that it refers specifically to the period in July and August when the children are on holiday from school.
    Their summer holidays is also possible, but by law these holidays still have to be taken during the summer holidays.

    There is a possibility that it refers to a time when parents could take their children on holiday outside the summer holidays without fear of prosecution.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013

Share This Page