English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Many years ago, on my way from Hongkong to New York, I passed a week in San Francisco.

What exactly does the phrase "pass a week" mean?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by RegDwigнt Aug 18 '12 at 20:08

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 3 down vote accepted

That perfectly natural American sentence is the beginning of Ambrose Bierce's short story Beyond the Wall. It means the narrator spent a week in San Francisco as a stopover while traveling from Hong Kong to New York.

For commentary on the “spending time” metaphor, see John Lawler's answers (1, 2) to the questions Single word for “time spent” and The difference between “take” and “last”.

share|improve this answer
thank you very much! – abra Aug 18 '12 at 19:49

A more common way to say that is:

[...]I spent a week in San Francisco.

It simply means that the speaker stayed in San Francisco for a week between visits to Hong Kong and New York.

I have only heard this kind of phrasing from French speakers. A literal translation from French will yield the "passed a week" phrasing.

share|improve this answer
It doesn't sound awkward to me, but the rest of this answer is exactly correct. – TecBrat Aug 18 '12 at 19:36
I can't recall this wording being used by a native English speaker before. Could be regional? – tenfour Aug 18 '12 at 19:37
Edited; is this really used in common speech? I have never heard it in the midwest or west coast. In Brussels I only hear it from non-native English speakers. I wonder if it's a slightly theatrical tint which often borrows nuances from French. – tenfour Aug 18 '12 at 19:48
Although saying things like, "I passed the time by playing solitaire." is still common. So if you can pass the time then one could ask, "How much time?" which then leads to, "I passed a week." – Jim Aug 18 '12 at 20:41
@tenfour: I wasn't talking about linguistics, I was talking about conversation. – Jim Aug 19 '12 at 7:18

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