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  • How-many-day a tour was it?

  • How many days was the tour?

  • How many days of tour were you on?

  • How-many-day tour of Cambridge were you on?

Are the above sentences grammatically correct?

I understand that there are simpler ways to ask that question, such as "how long was the tour?" or "how many days did the tour last?", but I'm wondering about the correctness of the above sentences.

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  • 1
    We can use the hyphenated form '[X]-day' with a number, but not with 'how many?'. Your other versions are not idiomatic either (except the ones you know to be correct). Aug 9 at 15:45
  • 1
    We could say, “I was on a many-day tour,” but “How-many-day” or “how many-day” are not allowed.
    – Davislor
    Aug 10 at 3:49
  • @Davislor: I would not expect to hear "I was on a many-day tour" from a native English speaker.
    – TonyK
    Aug 10 at 18:13
  • Wouldn't 'how long the tour was' be more natural? Aug 10 at 21:50
  • @TonyK “A many-day tour” doesn’t sound incorrect to me, but when I search for examples, people indeed do not seem to say that. They’re much more likely to say things like, “Our many day-tour options” (As in, many different options for day tours.)
    – Davislor
    Aug 12 at 13:16
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"How many days was the tour" is the only option there that is correct.

I'd still definitely prefer to use "how long was the tour".

Edit: as Jack said, option 2 "How many days of tour were you on" sounds possible, but it is quite awkward and I would probably never say it. Options 1 and 4 are wrong.

Edit: as alephzero said, option 2 sounds like you didn't complete the tour.

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  • 1
    I think "How many days of tour were you on?" is also possible, but 1 and 4 aren't. Aug 9 at 15:46
  • 1
    Yeah I agree. Updated the answer.
    – Riolku
    Aug 9 at 15:49
  • 8
    "How many days of the tour were you on?" seems to imply that you didn't do the complete tour but only part of it. (Also note I added the word the.)
    – alephzero
    Aug 10 at 0:23
  • #1 sort of works if the 'a' is at the front of the expression (especially with some extra context, eg a teacher explaining to a class: "Long tours are more than 6 days, short tours are 2-3 days. John, (who's just come back from holidays), you went on a how-many-days tour?" would be valid. Similarly, you could add 'a' to the front of #4 for the same (stilted, but valid) result @alephzero that change renders it less awkward, but as you note changes OP's meaning. Instead, just substituting 'touring' for 'tour' would be a better fit for the original intent.
    – mcalex
    Aug 10 at 8:46
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In general there are very few situations in English where we hyphenate more than two words. Here is a blog form Grammarly if you are interested but tl;dr hyphens are use if, when combining two words to describe something, the meaning of the two-word pair is different from the individual words.

The example they give is asking for a "dog-friendly" hotel i.e. a hotel that allows dogs. This would be different from a hotel that caters to only dogs (a "dog hotel") or a hotel where everyone was super nice (a "friendly hotel"). The hyphen is intended to clarify that "dog-friendly" is meant as a single term and not two separate descriptors.

Also agree #2 is best choice. #3 is a bit weird but people would likely understand. You could modify #3 to say "How many days was the tour you were on" and that is a little less weird.

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    I think there is a case where "how-many-day" can work as a single adjective. For example, Person A: "It was a twelve-day tour". Person B: "It was a how-many-day tour!?" It's a little contrived though. Aug 10 at 16:27
  • 1
    Shouldn't that be "two-word pair" near the end of your first paragraph? The linked blog post says, "When numbers are used as the first part of a compound adjective, use a hyphen to connect them to the noun that follows them. This way, the reader knows that both words function like a unit to modify another noun." Aug 10 at 18:51
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How-many-day a tour was it?

No, instead: How many days' tour was it?

How many days was the tour?

Ok. Prefer: How long was the tour - how many days?

How many days of tour were you on?

Workable. Prefer: How many tour days were you on?

(Note it implies 'you' only attended some of more tour days.)

How-many-day tour of Cambridge were you on?

No, see others and simply add 'of Cambridge'. The only reason I can think of to hyphenate 'how-many-day' like that is as an informal speech-reflecting emphasis on surprise at just how many days the tour was:

A: I was on a 365-day tour of Cambridge last year, and--

B: [incredulous] You were on a how-many-day tour?!

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