16

Which one is the correct one? Or do they depend if we're using American/British English?

A: She went there after the summer break was over.

or

B: She went there after summer break was over.

A British friend says A is the correct one; an American friend says B is the correct one. And I'm left wondering which one is the correct one...

7
  • 33
    They are both correct. Jan 22, 2023 at 14:25
  • 14
    And I'm left wondering which one is the correct one... Here is the solution -> If you travel to the UK use 1, if you travel to the US, use 2.
    – Greybeard
    Jan 22, 2023 at 14:31
  • 1
    After winter ended. After the winter ended. Same thing.
    – Lambie
    Jan 22, 2023 at 18:48
  • 2
    Stephen Fry said : Many authors write much better books in faulty english than brilliant scholars who write perfect english... Yeah like soon after holiday or after the holiday? after soon after lunch or after the lunch? It's not worth chasing after the extremities of grammatical perfection. Jan 23, 2023 at 14:43
  • 2
    This reminds me of American "I was in the hospital" vs English, "I was in hospital." Jan 24, 2023 at 22:42

4 Answers 4

39

I think "summer break" is essentially American, and it wouldn't normally have an article in the cited example (but it's certainly not "incorrect" to include it).

The standard British equivalent is "the summer holidays", which must have an article if used in the cited example context.

16
  • 49
    No. There's a major US/UK usage split here - especially to do with school holidays. Jan 22, 2023 at 20:55
  • 12
    @Lambie the head noun of the phrase is not "summer" but "break"; the question isn't about "the summer" vs. "summer" but about "the break" vs. "break." Your example is a complete sentence in which "ended" is a verb, not part of a noun phrase that includes the word "summer." While I (American) don't find "the summer break" to be all that odd, I can't say the same for "the spring break."
    – phoog
    Jan 23, 2023 at 10:50
  • 10
    @phoog: This NGram confirms that your and your compatriots' aversion to the article is definitely even stronger with spring break. The British equivalent there is the Easter holidays - almost always plural, with article. Jan 23, 2023 at 12:01
  • 14
    @Lambie - but they aren't. They are overwhelmingly one way in the UK and another in the US. Here in the UK we would also never use "summer vacation" or "winter vacation." phoog and FumbleFingers have it correct.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 23, 2023 at 16:28
  • 3
    @FumbleFingers I was in school in the US from 4-3 decades ago (78-97) and we never said "holidays" in the British sense. Maybe it was 4-5 or 5-6 decades ago? I don’t recall ever hearing "summer break" either. There was "winter break" which could have been called "the holidays" as in "happy holidays", "spring break", and "summer vacation". Jan 23, 2023 at 23:21
28

They are both correct, though each is more common in a different region.

My understanding is that AmE treats "summer break" as an abstract, as it's the name of a period that happens every year. In this interpretation, "summer break" is a general concept, it's not just a specific break during the summer of a specific year.

Therefore, it is treated the same way as other abstract nouns and it receives no article. Other examples include:

Love is all around us.
I wash myself using water.
Detail is not something I concern myself with.

All of these nouns refer to general concepts, not concrete instances, hence why they're abstract.

"The summer break" is more common in BrE, and it tends to refer to a specific break during a specific summer (which is usually contextually obvious).

This makes it a concrete noun, which does receive an article. Note that I am using the same nouns as before in this example, but their meaning has slightly shifted from before.

The love I get from my family is amazing.
I dipped my toes in the water.
Just look at the details in this painting, it's breathtaking.

This is talking about specific instances, not general concepts. The specific instance of love from my family (not all love), the specific body of water (not all water), the specific details in this painting (not any unspecified details).


Theoretically, you'd be talking about every summer break when you omitted the article, since you're referring to the abstract concept. However, casual speech is not as strict about rules, and it's generally understood that even though it may be used as an abstract noun, it can make sense to only refer to the summer break which is contextually relevant.

6
  • 2
    This construction is used with many time points/periods: "I'll visit after summer break / summer / Christmas / March"--all of those are readily understood to refer to the relevant, upcoming one. That usage is so common that to me trying to use it in the abstract comes off as awkward and unclear. If I heard "I visit grandma after Christmas," I'd have to stop and clarify what the speaker meant. Jan 23, 2023 at 2:28
  • @GrandOpener ... I question your example sentence as well... I you referring to "the grandma", or "the Christmas", or "the visit"? (yes, I know my commas and question mark belong inside the quotes). and yes, I know you mean next Christmas, and my grandma and will visit.
    – CGCampbell
    Jan 23, 2023 at 15:04
  • I suspect that AmE treats "summer break" as uncountable because summer is uncountable. Of course, "summer" is actually modifying "break," and "break" is usually countable, so BrE is more logical here.
    – alphabet
    Jan 23, 2023 at 20:00
  • @alphabet I'm not quite convinced that summer is uncountable. E.g. "How many summers have we spent together in Barbados?"
    – Flater
    Jan 24, 2023 at 0:25
  • @Flater I should say: summer is uncountable in some contexts, e.g. "Summer is my favorite time of year."
    – alphabet
    Jan 24, 2023 at 0:30
10

A complement to user FumbleFingers' answer

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

21
  • 2
    AE calls it vacation. The summer vacation, or Summer vacation. Jan 22, 2023 at 16:13
  • 1
    You have to be able to spell out the difference in an answer in your own words or quoting someone. A bunch of ngrams does not cut the mustard.
    – Lambie
    Jan 22, 2023 at 20:41
  • 9
    @pipe There is no need to make more of it than it is; it is called a complement to another answer, and as such not pretending to be too much of an answer; it is nonetheless the source of an idea that has been used to provide more data for the first answer. If you deem this type of complement of little value, then abstain from upvoting, that's perfectly all right. However, do not downvote it, there is nothing wrong in it.
    – LPH
    Jan 23, 2023 at 0:14
  • 2
    @pipe furthermore, the reasons given for banning answers created by AI do not apply to an answer that comprises a set of graphs chosen by a person. If LPH generated this answer by asking HAL 9000 to supply some ngrams in response to this question or to complement FumbleFingers's answer, that would be another matter.
    – phoog
    Jan 23, 2023 at 10:45
  • 1
    As a girl I was used to hearing "summer holidays" even when the meaning was not plural… Not sure if BrEng corpus will reflect this usage.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 23, 2023 at 11:44
1

It seems to me that this question is about whether it is correct to prefix "summer break" with "the" or not.

In my experience (raised in Scotland, lived in many places), the rest of the UK (particularly South-East England) leave "the" out, while in Scotland it is left in.

This seems to be the general pattern, not just for "the" for example:

  • In Scotland: "I'm going to my bed" (most likely "I'm away to my bed")
  • In Rest of UK: "I'm going to bed"

  • Scotland: "I'm just back from my work"
  • UK: "I'm just back from work"

etc.

4
  • 1
    This is interesting and informative but is not an answer to the original question so would be better left as a comment.
    – mjaggard
    Jan 25, 2023 at 12:09
  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 25, 2023 at 12:18
  • Hi JSwan, welcome to ELU! The question is about American vs British English, though.
    – Joachim
    Jan 25, 2023 at 14:23
  • The question is indeed about American vs British English. But what is "British English"? As someone who was born and brought up in "Great Britain", I can see clearly the subtleties in the question. There are four countries in the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". I supplied a detailed and honest answer. From my first hand experience. Offered without prejudice or expectation of reward. If you want to delete it, do as you wish. Life is not a code review.
    – JSwan
    Mar 19, 2023 at 11:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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