I am writing an essay about my university experiences and a suggested correction from an English Ph.D. sounds wrong to me.

The suggestion is

In our meeting to discuss the spring semester of my junior year, my adviser set forth a challenge.

She made a similar correction later,

One graduate course had been sufficient to consume my time in the fall semester.

As a native English speaker, both of these corrections sound like grammatical errors to me, but I do not have the linguistic knowledge to articulate exactly what, if anything, makes them incorrect. (I spend much more time on math.se than english.se!)

Are her suggestions correct?

  • What you had originally is definitely correct, but I'll leave it to others to use the correct grammatical terminology to rebuff your challenger.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 5, 2013 at 18:21
  • 3
    Named time periods like Fall Semester are often simply used as temporal adverbs withoutarticles. Since the adverbs are identical to the nouns, you can say either one. Aug 5, 2013 at 18:50
  • As @John Lawler says, named time periods like "Fall Semester" are temporal adverbs, what does the adverb modify in the first sentence?
    – JeffSahol
    Aug 5, 2013 at 19:39
  • @JeffSahol Looks to me like it's a nominal in the first sentence, object of discuss. Aug 5, 2013 at 19:43
  • 1
    I'm with @AndrewLeach. (Maybe because we're both from the UK?) I don't think either of the changes would be appropriate in British English. Leaving aside the difference in terminology, "discuss spring semester" and "my time fall semester" just do not make sense to me.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 5, 2013 at 22:33

4 Answers 4


Time periods can be used without articles. A different example:

One graduate course had been sufficient to consume my time last semester.

I personally find it awkward to use "fall semester" instead of "last semester" but it's the same basic idea.


I think the corrections are technically correct, but they make the sentences awkward. Perhaps you could reach a compromise, such as:

In our meeting to discuss my junior year (plan), my adviser set forth a spring semester challenge.


One graduate course was sufficient to consume my fall semester.


She is aggressively trying to apply a grammatical option. Temporal nouns are often used in adverbial phrases, and the preposition can often be elided, but those are not always true. We use the prepositions 'on' for days, 'at' for shorter times, and 'in' for longer times. Words like 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' have been built by compounding, and weekday names are compounded possessives. We can say 'Tuesday, I went' or 'On Tuesday, I went', but we typically don't leave out the prepositions in '[At] noon, I went' or '[In] 1984, I went'. My examples all have commas to set apart the adverbial, but that too can be elided (because temporal phrases are usually adverbial). In your first example, the semester isn't even an adverbial, although her version works because 'the' doesn't add any information. In your second example, she elided the preposition and the article, and didn't add a comma. Since the object of the complement 'to consume my time' is also a temporal noun, the brain has trouble inserting the elided preposition.


I had to ask myself this question recently, and was surprised what I came up with. Specifically I like to listen to books on tape (CD/MP3) and while enjoying one of the Harry Potter Novels, I was struck by how odd the phrase "Do you need to go to hospital?" (As opposed to the hospital) sounded to me.

But after researching it I discovered that we often use similar forms with other places such as; I am going to School. He was at Church all day.

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