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Is it grammatical to say, "The class is going on excursion"? My thought is that it would be preferable to say "The class is going on an excursion".

My colleague thinks that the first sentence is correct. What do you think?

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Going to hospital is not the same as going on excursion. The latter is not common in BrE. –  Andrew Leach Sep 14 '12 at 9:43
    
@Andrew Leach: True, but our politicians go walkabout, they don't go on walkabout. –  FumbleFingers Sep 14 '12 at 13:48
    
@FumbleFingers: I think I disagree. Australian aborigines go walkabout and remain lost for months or years: politicans go on a walkabout (though if they want to go walkabout, that's fine by me). –  TimLymington Sep 14 '12 at 14:32
    
@TimLymington: I'm not sure what you're disagreeing about. I know go walkabout is also used with that specialised sense for aborigines - my point was that it's very "non-standard" to speak of anyone "going on walkabout". Some prepositional usages, such as OP's here, are "uncommon, but reasonably acceptable to many". Many other "plausible" usages simply don't occur. –  FumbleFingers Sep 14 '12 at 14:50
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closed as general reference by MετάEd, Daniel, Cameron, Mahnax, coleopterist Oct 7 '12 at 20:03

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.

2 Answers

While “The class is going on excursion” sounds fine to me, it appears that “... on an excursion” is a more-common form. An ngrams for on excursion,on an excursion,on journey,on trip shows that on an excursion is hundreds of times more frequent than on excursion. Note that the percentage of relevant instances among instances of on an excursion is high, and the percentage of relevant instances among instances of on excursion is low, which changes the ratio to thousands of times instead of merely hundreds. That is, if you inspect book links for on excursion, most are irrelevant; for example, refer to passengers on excursion steamers rather than to passengers on excursions.

Among the book links, you may find the link to Martin Haspelmath's Coordinating Constructions of interest, as it specifically treats the on excursion, on an excursion pair, albeit via examples translated from Polish. Part of what he says is not profound: some coordinating conjunction uses are constrained syntactically; some are constrained semantically; and some are constrained both ways. I don't know if the rest of what he says (re non-reflexive possessive pronouns vs reflexive pronouns) is relevant.

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Maybe this is a UK/US thing. In the US, "going on excursion" would definitely be considered a grammar error. "Excursion" is a noun, and when used in the singular it calls for an article. (Or a similar adjective: You could say, "The class went on one excursion this semester.")

I understand "go to hospital" is common in the UK, while in the US we always say "go to THE hospital". Though we do say "go to work" and "go to school" with no articles. I don't know if there's some rule to explain that or if those are just special cases.

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