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"An hour's work" and "a two weeks' holiday". In "an hour's work" does the indefinite article belong to the noun "work"? As far as I know, "work" is an uncountable noun. In "a two week's holiday" does the article belong to "holiday"? Is it better to say "He took a two weeks' holiday" or "He took two weeks' holiday"? I know not everyone likes the expression "an hour's work" but I took it from a textbook which has been reliable so far. Is "It was a one-hour's work" correct? If yes, why?

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    No, "an hour's work" expands into "the work of an hour." The article belongs to "hour." In the example "He took a two weeks' holiday," it really ought to be edited to "a two-week holiday," in which case yes, the article belongs to "holiday." Nov 22, 2021 at 14:40
  • Andy Bonner, thank you. So, "a two weeks' holiday" doesn't exist. I see.
    – Elster
    Nov 22, 2021 at 14:44
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    Note this question, which deals in more length with the "two weeks'" idea. You can keep the possessive, but I wouldn't get an article involved. Nov 22, 2021 at 14:47
  • No: The genitive NP is "an hour's", and this is functioning in the structure of the larger (matrix) NP "an hour's work". In other words, "an" belongs with "hour's".
    – BillJ
    Nov 22, 2021 at 14:53
  • @Elster, you can say "a two-week" holiday.
    – Eden0516
    Apr 24 at 3:36

2 Answers 2

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No - the article belongs to the hour.

The indefinite article "a" can usually be substituted by the number 1:

  • an apple
  • one apple
  • I have a child
  • I have one child

That's why in your second example of "two week's holiday" there is no article, because the number takes its place. I'm sure you understand that this example refers to one holiday that is two weeks in length, not two holidays lasting a week each.

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  • The sentence Last week I went on five ten mile runs is a valid sentence: It means that over the course of the last week, I did a ten mile run on five separate occassions. (Treat ten mile run as a compound noun.) Nov 22, 2021 at 15:30
  • @JacobHorbulyk - it is usual to hyphenate adjectival phrases of measure consisting of a quantity and a unit, such as ten-mile run, five-tonne truck, three-wheeled car, eight-legged insect, etc, so you went on five ten-mile runs. Nov 22, 2021 at 20:30
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The reason you can use "An hour's work" is because, the "an" refers to "hour", not "work". The second example "two weeks' holiday", has no article, since "a" is the same as "one", thus we can't say "one two weeks' holiday".

P.S. However, if you really want to add an article before the second example, you can't change it into "a two-week holiday". If you want to know the reason, you can tell me in the comments.

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