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How do we use the word "leave" in a sentence? Is it ever pluralized? Is it correct to say "How many days leaves do you get per year?" or "How much leave do you get per year?"

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  • "Leave" (in this sense) is generally a mass noun, though if 10 people had been authorized "leave" and their authorizations were cancelled it would not be improper to say "there leaves were cancelled".
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 11, 2020 at 18:44
  • (Oops!! Actually, that would be improper, but "their leaves were cancelled" would not be.)
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 11, 2020 at 19:39
  • @Astralbee - It's a mass noun, just like "water". This is why you say "all leave is cancelled". You wouldn't say "All water are wet."
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 11, 2020 at 20:21
  • @HotLicks I stand corrected.
    – Astralbee
    Feb 11, 2020 at 20:40

1 Answer 1

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When you ask your employer for time off work, "leave" actually means the permission they grant for the absence, not the absence itself. The phrase "absent without leave" refers to situations where someone is absent without permission.

"Leave", as in "leave of absence" does have a plural - "leaves of absence". From wikipedia:

Generally, paid leaves of absence are given at the request of the employer

However, the plural is not often used because the word "leave" has come to be a shortened version of the phrase "leave of absence", and is used as a mass (uncountable) noun, for example:

  • I have used all my leave for this year.
  • I have been on leave 6 times this year.
  • Everybody needs to book their leave.

As your example uses the noun "leave", the correct rendition would be:

All leave is cancelled.

However, if you were to use the phrase "leave of absence", the correct rendition would be:

All leaves of absence are cancelled.

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  • I can't agree with the last example: I suggest "all leave of absence must be requested formally." Feb 11, 2020 at 20:48
  • @WeatherVane Do you think it should be "all leave of absence"? Because that sounds completely wrong. The point I am making is that "leave" has become a replacement collective noun for "leaves of absence".
    – Astralbee
    Feb 11, 2020 at 20:54
  • Isn't "leave of absence" a noun phrase? I have never heard this meaning of leave in the plural. In the example, it is unlikely that more than one absence is requested anyway. Another example is "I have used up all my leave" even when there were several absences. Feb 11, 2020 at 20:56
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    @WeatherVane It isn't used often, in fact I had to look it up. My original draft of this answer was wrong, so I'm being humble here. Look it up in the dictionary, the plural of leave is leaves, but it is only really used in phrases like "leaves of absence". Because "leave" really means the permission, not the absence.
    – Astralbee
    Feb 11, 2020 at 21:16
  • The only context in which I can imagine leave being treated as countable is that of a soldier on active service - "His last two leaves have been very short ones." Feb 12, 2020 at 14:32

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