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This was the first class after the long summer break, so, quite naturally, the conversation drifted onto the topic of holidays.

When do we use ‘holiday’ and when do we use ‘holidays’? The answer isn’t as straightforward as it should be.

Generally speaking, ‘holiday’ is used to refer to the period of time when we don’t have to go to work or to school. We prefer the plural form ‘holidays’ when we speak about our main holiday: summer holidays, school holidays.

When we talk about a single day that is an official holiday, for example, 1st May, we call it a ‘bank holiday’ or a ‘public holiday’. Sometimes we have a Monday off (whether it be a public holiday or otherwise) – the period covering Saturday, Sunday & Monday is called a ‘long weekend’ (the Spanish call it ‘puente’ [bridge]).

The expression ‘on holiday’ is never used with the plural form:

I met Chantal while I was on holiday in Paris. Not: I met Chantal while I was on holidays in Paris.
Where are you going on holiday this year? Not: Where are you going on holidays this year?

There are several ways we can ask about holidays:

How was your holiday?
How was your summer?
Did you have a good holiday?
Where did you go for your holidays?

This mind map looks at the various possible collocations for “holiday”.

Dogme collocations: holiday

While we were on the subject of holidays, we also touched upon the topic of sailing. Sailing can be quite a specialised topic, so I may very well dedicate more time to it.