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Which is more natural between the two of these sentences?

I plan to move house next month.
I plan to move houses next month.

Are there any places where move houses should be used over move house or vice versa?

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You could say "I plan to move next month", and at least most Am. Eng. speakers would understand. –  simchona Jul 26 '11 at 23:26
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To me, "move houses" sounds like this: static.howstuffworks.com/gif/house-moving-2.jpg –  Marthaª Jul 26 '11 at 23:53
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6 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In the UK I think people only ever move house, unless they're talking about more than one household moving at the same time. But in the vernacular, house builders and estate agents (US realtors) might well talk of "moving houses" to mean "selling houses".

This NGram indicates "move house" is the dominant form, but switching between American and British books suggests that tendency is less marked in the US.

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hmm, interesting. Maybe move house might sound more natural in a British accent as move houses seems fairly hard to say. In my Australian accent both sound like they're fairly interchangeable but I'm not 100% sure? –  cryo Jul 26 '11 at 23:43
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@David Morrissey: I'm not aware either form is more "hard to say". But I do think "move house" is something of an idiomatic usage in the first place, since both the old and the new house stay exactly where they are (I'll ignore mobile homes!). If it's an idiom there may well be regional variations in the precise form, which won't necessarily mean anything. I'll add an NGram showing singular is far more prevalent, but plural is less 'marginalised' in the US. They don't classify any books as Australian, I'm afraid. –  FumbleFingers Jul 26 '11 at 23:59
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If I intend to relocate my belongings to a new residence (be it a standalone home, apartment, dorm room, or work cubicle), then I would say I plan to "move house", or simply "move". If I'm moving a large distance, I might say I'm "moving away".

If I intend to sell many residences (because I am in the real estate business), then I would say I plan to "move some houses."

Alternatively, if I am in the business of physically picking up and hauling around buildings, I might say I plan to "move the house". (I would probably tend to preface this statement with an explanatory remark, like "I'm a housemover".)

With your original sentence structure, I would tend to say "I plan to move next month", or perhaps "I expect to move into a new house next month."

If someone told me "I'm planning to move houses next month", I would probably have a moment of cognitive dissonance thinking that they were in the housemoving business before deciding that they really just meant they were moving their belongings into a new house.

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When I use "move house" I use it as a general analogy to completely move or change from one thing to another, be it my actual house, my cubacle, a shelf in my cabinet, etc.

When I use "move houses" I am specifically talking about changing my place of residence.

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As you are the one moving, perhaps leave the houses out of it. They are staying put.

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it was in a letter where the other person wasn't aware of the context, so I thought it was better to be explicit. I think it may be appropriate in conversation to leave the houses bit out though –  cryo Jul 27 '11 at 0:09
    
I apologise, as I was being a bit facetious, because I think either way we are dealing with a vernacular that is never quite 'correct'. It is a shortened form of either "I plan to move to a new house" or "I plan to move my possessions from one house to another". In one of these there are 2 'houses' involved therefore both could be considered 'correct'. It is more common in my experience not to pluralise the house though. Aren't we trying to be concise here? –  misteraidan Jul 27 '11 at 0:45
    
I was translating a letter from Japanese, they didn't say where they were moving or any more details, just that they were moving :P –  cryo Jul 27 '11 at 1:12
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It might just as easily be paraphrased as "I plan to move between houses". I don't think you can analyse a postulated paraphrase to decide valid plurality for the idiom. "Move house[s]" doesn't have to be "short for" anything specific. –  FumbleFingers Jul 27 '11 at 1:57
    
@FumbleFingers: It wasn't intended to be "short for" anything in particular, the information just wasn't in the original language. It just said "I plan to move very soon". I've sent it already, but just for reference I ended up with something similar to this: "I'm going to move house very soon, but I really enjoyed these last few months." –  cryo Jul 27 '11 at 2:18
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In our experience, people refer to a change of residence as "The move houses." However, the traditional way people express about service sometimes says "I plan to move house next month" and with this is implicit that is speaking from one direction to another.

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Taking the analogy from "changing places", it should be said "move houses" Puime

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If you have two people who are taking each other's places, that's changing places. If you have only one person who is moving from one place to another, you don't use the expression. So if you had two people who were moving into each other's houses, that might be moving houses. –  Peter Shor Mar 18 at 15:20
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