The textbook "Oxford Practice Grammar" by John Eastwood has this example in Unit 15, Exercise 2:

Have you ever played beach volleyball?
Yes, we played it on holiday.

a) The holiday is still going on.
b) The holiday is over.

You need to choose a) or b), and this exercise helps you to learn the difference between Past Simple and Past Perfect. It's clear that b) is correct - the holiday is over, hence the use of Past Simple in the response.

However, shouldn't the response be "Yes, we played it on a holiday"?

The way I understand it, "on holiday" generally refers to time spent away from work, rather than a specific instance of vacationing ("on a holiday"). And I've been taught that Past Simple is naturally used (among other cases) when talking about a specific moment in the past.

The answers a) and b) also refer to a specific holiday ("the holiday").

Here are my questions:

  • Is it correct to say "Yes, we played it on holiday"?
  • Would it be better to say "Yes, we played it on/during a holiday"?
  • See also English Language Learners Good Luck. – Kris Jan 29 at 9:00
  • 1
    Yes, it's correct to say "We played it on holiday". We might use 'a holiday' when referring to a particular trip in the past. "I climbed Goat Fell while on a holiday in the Isle of Arran in 1970." – Kate Bunting Jan 29 at 9:13
  • Thanks @KateBunting! How about "We have played it on holiday"? Would this be grammatically correct when referring to some holiday time in the past, and without specifying which particular holiday trip it was? – Dmytro Shevchenko Jan 29 at 9:30
  • Yes, that would be correct. – Kate Bunting Jan 29 at 12:10
  • 1
    “We played it while on holiday” sounds better. – Lawrence Jan 29 at 14:48

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