two-week /two-weeks’ holiday

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ofriendragon, Jun 22, 2008.

  1. We’ll be away for two weeks because we’ll have a ___________.
    A. two-weeks holiday
    B. two weeks’ holidays
    C. two-week holiday
    D. two-weeks’ holiday

    The answer is C. Is D correct?

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. Unknoewn13 Senior Member

    New Jersey
    English - American
    C is much better than D, because the holiday isn't being possessed by anything. "Two-week" is simply an adjective, which works very well. You wouldn't be able to say "Because we'll have a Michael's holiday." On the other hand, if you take out the "a," you could potential say "two-weeks' holiday," if you want to say that the holiday belongs to the two weeks (many people say it this way). You could say "Because we'll have Washington's holiday."
  3. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    No. That would be like saying "I'm going to take a ten-minutes coffee break." which, obviously, isn't correct. Try this previous post regarding weeks'/weeks, OFD.
  4. envie de voyager Senior Member

    Niagara Falls, Canada
    C is correct, except that there is no need for the hyphen between these words. The apostrophe in D would indicate that the holiday belonged to two weeks, which doesn't make sense.

    Hope this clears it up for you.
  5. Unknoewn13 Senior Member

    New Jersey
    English - American
    You would definitely need the hyphen in C. "Two-week" is being used as a single adjective, and thus the two words need to be linked with the hyphen. It's the same as the difference between "I need two-fruit salads" and "I need two fruit salads." In the first one, you are giving an unspecified number of salads, but saying they must have two fruits. In the second, you are giving an unspecified number of fruits, but saying that there must be two salads. You cannot say "We’ll be away for two weeks because we’ll have a two week holiday" - "a" implies singular while "two" implies plural.
  6. envie de voyager Senior Member

    Niagara Falls, Canada
    I have been taking two week vacations for decades, without being aware that I have been confusing those around me. From now on, I'll take two-week vacations.

    Thank you
  7. Unknoewn13 Senior Member

    New Jersey
    English - American
    You probably wouldn't confuse anyone in that specific instance, since it is pretty straightforward either way and normally understood from context:p In fact, a vast majority of people probably never use the hyphen. However, someone who doesn't know too much about the situation might see "two week vacations" and might question whether that means you take two vacations that last a week or that all your vacations last for two weeks. But I guess you are already clear on that:p
  8. what about

    twenty minutes' walk
    two weeks’ work
  9. Unknoewn13 Senior Member

    New Jersey
    English - American
    You definitely need hyphens in these instances as well. Now that you say these, however, I'm thinking that "D" in your original sentence is entirely informal, but spoken, and should still never be considered in formal writing. "It is a twenty-minute walk" is correct, while "It is (a) twenty-minutes' walk" is informal. I'm pretty sure I was wrong in originally saying you would have to remove "a" to make the first sentence correct.
    However, "two-weeks' work" is different. You could not say "It is a two-week work" because this is very vague. You would have to say "It is two-weeks' (worth of) work." The "worth of" is implied, but it is what the full sentence reads.

    Edit: Now that I read my message back over, it is incredibly hard to understand. If you need further clarification, just ask.
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Those are OK exactly as they are if you use them like this:
    It is twenty minutes' walk to the station
    Painting the station wall is two weeks' work.

    How far is it to the station?
    It's a twenty-minute walk.

    How long will it take to paint the station wall?
    It's a two-week job.

    Hyphens optional.

    ... And only (C) will do as an answer to the topic question.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2008
  11. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Only C), with hyphen.
  12. tablecloth Senior Member

    Could we say "two weeks of holidays" or that is just the Spanish direct translation? Thank you very much in advance.
  13. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    Is the hyphen problem related to different "normal" practices in the US and UK variants of our common inheritance?

    I would never have bothered with the hyphen!

  14. tablecloth Senior Member

    I have found the following in a legal text: " ...becomes entitled to an annual holiday of four weeks on holiday pay"
    I wonder if it is correct because of the legal context or because of the adjective annual.
    Would it be more common "four-week paid holiday" or "a paid holiday of two weeks"?
    Thank you very much.
  15. Zsuzsu Senior Member

    Budapest, Hungary
    I'll leave the last question to natives (sorry, Tablecloth).

    Back to the original question: all my grammar books say that the following structures are correct:

    a three-week holiday (with hyphen, no plural s)
    three weeks' holiday (no hyphen, no indefinite atricle because it is plural)
    a week's holiday (if it is not plural, you need the article)

    Sources: English Grammar in Use (Raymond Murphy), Practical English Usage (Michael Swan). Similarly, if you check it in style guides, you will find the same. For example here: Writing and Style Guide - University of Oxford and here: MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association) Style Guide
  16. tablecloth Senior Member

    Could we say "I had three weeks' holiday last year"? Doesn't it sound odd?
    Thanks again.
  17. loureed4 Senior Member

    Is the "a" correct ?: "I will take a two week holiday next year" ?.
  18. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Yes, if you add a hyphen: "I will take a two-week holiday next year.":)
  19. Canarinho_Verde_Amarelo

    Canarinho_Verde_Amarelo New Member

    Portuguese - Brazil
    I would like to know if it is possible I write the sentence "holiday of two weeks" instead of "two-week holiday".

    Sometimes I struggle to know when I use the hyphen or not.
  20. loureed4 Senior Member

    Thanks !! :)
  21. 221BBaker

    221BBaker Senior Member

    Spanish (Canarian) & Catalan
    I think it is correct because everything after the preposition ‘of’ is part of an adjective clause. It explains what kind of holiday we are talking about: one ‘of four weeks with holiday pay’. I'd say neither the legal context nor the use of ‘annual’ have anything to do with.

    Whether it would be more common to use one sentence or the other, I think it would depend on the register you want to use.
    I would like to know what native speakers have to say about it.

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