10

Being a non native speaker of English, this type of sentence always bites me:

It was a pleasant four hours journey from Nashik to Pune.

Should it be hour or hours?

  • 1
    I would write "four-hour journey." – kiamlaluno Apr 18 '13 at 17:47
11

As kiamlaluno comments, the standard form is a two-hour wait, three-man band, four-course meal...

Although not everyone always bothers with the hyphen, you should include it if you want your written form to be above criticism. But never pluralise the "unit" (two-hour, three-day, four-month, six-foot, etc.).

5

In this sentence, the phrase four hour (sometimes written as four-hour) acts as an adjective, and English adjectives do not have a plural form.

This type of adjective is called a compound adjective. They are commonly used when describing time and size (among other things).

Some other examples include:

  • Three-hour tour
  • Fifty-yard line
  • Six-man team
  • Five-mile run
  • 2 Liter bottle
  • Ten-Gallon hat
  • 4 hours is wrong? – Sudhir Apr 18 '13 at 18:39
  • @Sudhir: Oh ye of little faith! My answer, posted an hour before you asked that, says: never pluralise the "unit". – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '13 at 21:33
  • @Sudhir: Yeah, "four-hours" as an adjective is incorrect. So it would be "it was a pleasant four-hour trip." Note however that this could be written as, "It was a pleasant trip that lasted four hours," in which "four hours" is correct. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 18 '13 at 22:23
3

I've seen this written – in published works – at least four different ways:

  • (a) a four hour journey
  • (b) a four-hour journey
  • (c) a four hours journey
  • (d) a four hours' journey

That all said, when looking for examples, it was relatively easy to find examples of formats (b) and (d), while examples of (a) and (c) were much harder to find, and seemed to come from less reliable sources. I would recommend using either (b) or (d) in writing.

It's hard to gauge which forms are preferred, because Ngrams aren't much use here – there's just no way to check all possible usages (e.g., we could check two hour trek, three hour tour, four mile hike, five day sojourn, six hour walk, seven day trip, etc.).

In case anyone thinks (a) and (c) are not valid, don't argue with me, argue with the publishers of these books:

example of form (a)

example of form (b)

example of form (c)

example of form (d)

  • 1
    +1 for pointing out that "four hours' journey" is also possible (and that people often forget or misplace apostrophes). – Ilmari Karonen Apr 19 '13 at 1:00
  • I'd say that a four hours' journey is at best archaic, and has no place in a learners' website. The general principle of number + hyphen + singular noun works for everyone in all contexts, but how often has anyone ever written that they ate a four courses' meal? I wouldn't touch that with a ten feet's bargepole! – FumbleFingers Apr 20 '13 at 17:10
  • @Fumble: This is not an archaic book. Neither is this. The O.P. asked about a unit of time, not about a meal. And just because this is a learner's site doesn't mean I'm going to answer questions as if they are kindergarteners. – J.R. Apr 20 '13 at 21:51
  • @ J.R.: Each to their own, but if I were a learner asking which of two alternatives was "correct", I'd rather be given a generic answer stating that one is always correct, and is used 99% of the time. I wouldn't particularly want to be distracted by being told about other permutations that occasionally (and imho wrongly) turn up here and there. – FumbleFingers Apr 20 '13 at 22:03
  • @Fumble: The risk you take by only giving the 95% answer is that you set up a learner to believe they've encountered an error when they see the less common – but still acceptable – form crop up. Were I the learner, I'd rather be given a more comprehensive answer than an abridged one. – J.R. Apr 20 '13 at 23:18
3

It was a pleasant four hour journey from Nashik to Pune.

...is correct. "Four hours" would definitely be wrong here. But bear in mind you may also see:

It was four hours' pleasant journey from Nashik to Pune.

The difference is the "a" - in the first example, you're talking about "a journey". In the second, the focus is on "four hours" and how you spent them. Both are correct, and idiomatic, but do not mix them.

If you wish to use the second, don't forget the apostrophe. :)

  • +1 for "both are correct .. but do not mix them". – J.R. Aug 6 '14 at 15:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.