I had a postcard from Joanne on holiday in Spain. It sounds like she is having a really good time.

What do the words 'on holiday in Spain' refer to? If the second sentence is missing, what does it change the meaning?

  • Did you look up the words "on holiday"? I'm not sure what your second question means. Can you clarify your question?
    – stangdon
    Aug 7, 2016 at 15:05
  • I think it means at the time when Joanne was spending her holidays.
    – Schwale
    Aug 7, 2016 at 15:06
  • 1
    The first preposition phrase modifies Joanne, the second may be taken to modify either Joanne or holiday -- it amounts to pretty much the same thing. Aug 7, 2016 at 15:06
  • What does it mean? It probably means that the speaker is from the UK, not the US. (In the US, the speaker would usually say, "I got a postcard from Joanne, who is on vacation in Spain.")
    – J.R.
    Aug 7, 2016 at 17:20
  • Without the second sentence, the meaning would be more ambiguous; I could be the one on holiday and/or in Spain.
    – choster
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:23

3 Answers 3


You could rewrite the sentence as:

I received a postcard from Joanne, who is on holiday in Spain.

Although, it could also be interpreted as you receiving a postcard from Joanne while you were on holiday in Spain. I doubt someone would interpret it this way as you're unlikely to be receiving post while on holiday, especially since many people take short (1 to 2 week) holidays which can be shorter than the time it takes a letter (or postcard) to get to you.

If you're confused about the definition of "on holiday," here is a definition of "holiday" with example sentences (from Cambridge Dictionary):

UK Informal: holidays, hols
US: vacation

A time when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what they want, such as travel or relax:

"a camping/skiing holiday"
"Have you decided where you're going for your holiday(s) this year?"
"Patricia is on holiday next week." "How many days' holiday do you get with your new job?"
"We thought we'd go to France for our summer holiday."
"Surely the school holidays start soon."

Removing the second sentence doesn't change the meaning of the first.


We often use the pronoun on with a noun relating to travel or to some other disruption to the routine that keeps us in the place we normally occupy:

on a trip

on a honeymoon

on a voyage

on a flight

on vacation

on holiday

on the march

on break

on furlough

on hiatus

on a jag

We are able to say things like:

I sent a bottle of champagne to them on their honeymoon

because the word on conveys the idea of something ongoing; in other words, it is as if the preposition on has embedded in it the idea of while or when.

I sent a bottle of champagne to them while they were on their honeymoon.


When I say I'm on a holiday means a break from school. Or It's the holiday ( meaning Federal Holiday in which federal businesses are closed) Or It's Christmas break or Christmas Holiday. We say We are on Vacation meaning we went somewhere.

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