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  1. How many times do you eat in a week?

  2. How many times a week do you eat?

I was told it was incorrect to add "in a week" to sentence 1. I know that sentence 2 is correct but I also think sentence 1 is correct.

Is sentence 1 correct? and what does the sentence mean?

  • 1
    Both sound okay to me (AmE speaker), and both have the same meaning. :) – F.E. Dec 3 '14 at 21:17
  • 1
    I think 1. would be more natural as: "How many times do you eat each/every week?" – user3169 Dec 3 '14 at 21:49
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    I think that "How much weight did you lose in a week on that diet?" is OK, and "How many times do you eat each week?" would be the way to phrase 1 because of the question you're asking. If you asked "How much kale did you eat in a week?" that would be OK, but "How many times did you eat kale in a week?" somehow seems awkward. How many times did you eat kale this week, or last week, seems OK though. I'll have to think about it some more. – ColleenV Dec 3 '14 at 23:24
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I think your first sentence would sound a little better using the word per:

How many times do you eat per week?

That said, something that sounds a little awkward or unusual is not necessarily "incorrect." The phrase in a [time unit] is roughly equivalent to per [time unit], although the former sounds a bit more informal, and the latter might be better in some scientific contexts.

One government website on nutrition uses both constructs:

Eating too many calories per day is linked to overweight and obesity.

You, like most people, may not know how many calories you consume in a day.

If you think about it, though, these two phrases are not quite interchangable in this context. Eating too many calories "in a day" isn't necessarily linked to obesity. (If your overall nutrition lifestyle is good, but you go out one night and eat a lot of pizza, you might be just fine.) However, if you eat too much junk food every day, that's when your weight will go up and your health will decline.

In short, in a day means "in some particular day," while per day refers to a daily average over time.

That said, in informal conversation, I think:

How many times do you eat in a week?

is fine. In a survey, though, I would recommend changing it:

How many times do you eat per week?

although you could use something like this, too:

How many times do you eat in an average (or typical) week?

This is essentially what your first question means, although, in the way you phrased it, the word "average" or "typical" is assumed, and not explicitly stated. I'm guessing that's why someone told you that in a day was "incorrect" – but I think "incorrect" is a bit too strong.

  • I think that times in a week is awkward if it is trying to replace per week. "He was arrested four times in a single month!" is OK to me because it is measured within a single time period. "He gets arrested at least twice a month." is the way I would phrase it if the time frame spanned multiple months. I can't put my finger on exactly why "in a week" seems wrong to me compared to "in one week". Even "in the span of a week" seems off compared to "in the span of one week". – ColleenV Dec 5 '14 at 0:54
  • @Colleen - Seems we agree then, but I do think it'll pass in informal contexts. For example, if I'm astonished that my teenage son is heating food in the microwave – again! – I could see myself asking, "Geez, kid, how many times do you eat in a day?" in which case he'd better answer with a number, and not, "You should say per day, Pops, not in a day." :^) – J.R. Dec 5 '14 at 9:54
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Sentence 1 is colloquial, I wouldn't use it in formal speech. Though I'd happily use it in my home town/country [northern Br Eng native] I wouldn't necessarily expect a non-native, or even non-regional correspondent to immediately grasp the meaning, other than through context.

There is an implied pseudo-comma - 'How many times do you eat, in a week?' which differentiates it from perhaps eating a product called 'in a week', though I doubt anyone would fall over that distinction.

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I don't have sufficient reputation to comment... but IMHO as a native BE speaker, 'times in a week' I'd say was more formal than 'times a week'. As in the sort of thing a lawyer would say in court: 'How many times in a week did you observer the plaintif...?' as opposed to normal speech 'How many times a week do you ?'. But they are both correct and would be understood by a native speaker without sounding strange or wrong.

  • There's no reason in my opinion to make this a comment - it answers the question. I think with a couple of tweaks it will get you on your way to having enough reputation to comment. – ColleenV Jan 20 '17 at 16:33
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Google Ngram Viewer shows that 'times a week' is used overwhelmingly more often than 'times in a week'. That doesn't make 'times in a week' 'wrong'. I can't recall reading or hearing it, and probably wouldn't use it myself, but it's perfectly well-formed and makes perfect sense, and if anything it is used in informal spoken English.

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