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"I'll go to visit my aunt in England as soon as the summer holidays start." Does "the summer holidays" refer to many days in the holiday, or many different summer holidays? I prefer to regard the summer holiday as a whole, so I tend to use the singular form.

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  • Holiday is used somewhat differently in American English and British English.
    – user230
    Jul 25, 2013 at 9:59

3 Answers 3

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Both "summer holiday" and "summer holidays" are commonly used, and mean the same thing. A native English speaker would use either the singular or plural form interchangeably without thinking about it, but I don't see any reason not to think of it as the "many days in the holiday", as you suggest.

It appears that the original meaning of "holiday" is "holy day", which might account for the plural use to describe a multi-day holiday.

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  • thank you for your answer.Maybe this is one way to explain the plural form of "holidays".
    – user48070
    Jul 24, 2013 at 9:21
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"Holiday" can refer to a single day, such as Independence Day, Easter, or Rosh Hashanah. "Holidays" can refer to a list of holidays, such as I just gave, or it can refer to a holiday season, as in the greeting, "Happy holidays."

Lastly the word "holiday" can refer to a time of vacation. All of these nuances can be found in dictionaries, such as this one and this one.

Because there are relatively few holidays in the summertime, but many people take a vacation in the summer (when kids are on summer recess from school), I would generally interpret summer holidays in one of two ways, depending on the context. If someone said,

My family would spend their summer holidays in Brighton.

then I would interpret that to mean a series of summer vacations; that is, the family was on holiday in Brighton on more than one or two occasions, in separate years. However, if someone said:

I hope you all have safe summer holidays.

I would interpret that to mean "I hope everyone who decides to vacation this summer will do so safely."

In the latter case, one could also say:

I hope everyone has a safe summer holiday.

but that might sound awkward to some, considering the chances are very slim that everyone will be taking their summer holiday at the same time. Some may take a holiday in July; others might wait until August. However,

I hope everyone is safe during the Christmas holiday(s).

would mean, "be safe during the days around Christmas," whether holiday is singular or plural.

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  • No offense, I wonder whether you are a teacher or not.
    – user48070
    Jul 25, 2013 at 10:29
  • I've taught a couple times. No offense taken :^)
    – J.R.
    Jul 25, 2013 at 10:33
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In the UK, summer holidays refers to the break between the end of one school year and the start of the next one. It is a period of time off for students and staff. It normally begins in late July and ends in early September. Both summer holiday and summer holidays are used to refer to this.

I get the impression that the quote in the question is talking about this.

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