Holidays & Vacations in American English

Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to look at some vocabulary and expressions related to taking time off from work or school.

Special days in your country which have historical or religious roots are called holidays. In the USA, we have holidays like New Year’s Day, President’s day, Independence Day, etc. In most countries, some of these holidays are days of the year that the government has decided public offices and businesses should be closed. These are called national holidays.

In the USA, for most people the work week is Monday to Friday. Wednesday, which falls in the middle of the week, is often called hump day. People who have such a work week have off on the weekend, or we can say they have the weekend off. Thus for most of these people, Saturday and Sunday are their days off. Some people have different days off. Let’s look at some of this vocabulary in some example sentences:

Christmas is my favorite holiday.
The office is closed on Monday because it is a national holiday.
My work week is Monday to Friday.
Happy hump day everyone! (note that this word is used in informal conversation only)
I love having the weekend off.
I’m going to the beach tomorrow because I’m off.
I have a day off tomorrow, so I’m going the beach.

Sometimes there is a long break from work or school. Schools in the USA have breaks such as winter break, spring break, and summer vacation. In general, companies in the USA do not take such long breaks. But workers do! If you take several consecutive days off, you are taking vacation or you have vacation. People can generally take their vacation time whenever they want to. You can also say that you are going on vacation, and this phrase is also used when you travel during your time off. If you use the article “a” it means you have a trip planned which includes travel, you are going on a vacation or taking a vacation. Let’s look at some of this vocabulary in some example sentences:

The kinds are home this week because it is spring break. (or you can say they have spring break)
What are you doing during your summer vacation?
I’m taking vacation in June for a week.
I can’t wait to go on vacation
Bob and his wife are taking a vacation to Orlando

Be careful! The vocabulary for school breaks such as winter break, spring break, and summer vacation is used only when talking about school-related breaks. If you do not work for a school or are not a student, you don’t have sprng break. Also, in British English, the term holiday is used to mean time off from work. In American Englsih, holiday is NOT used this way.

This is how we talk about time off from school or work in American English. I know there are a lot of idioms and vocabulary here, so please take some time to memorize it.

Where did you go on your last vacation? Tell us about it!

Idiom Lesson “Three sheets to the wind” From Happy English New York!


Download the mp3 file here

After a few cocktails, or beers, you may be three sheets to the wind. Have you heard this idiom? Three sheets to the wind means drunk. This idiom comes from the olden days of sailing. The word “sheet” on a sailboat refers to the ropes that are used to hold and adjust the sails. If the “sheets” on the boat are loose and flapping in the wind, then the sails will flap about, much like a drunken sailor. Thus, the expression three sheets to the wind came to mean being drunk.
The structure is very clear. Use the expression “three sheets to the wind” the same way you use the word drunk:
– After two bottles of wine last night, Lori was three sheets to the wind. (Lori was drunk)
– You look like you are three sheets to the wind. You’d better not drive. (You look like you are drunk)
We do not use this expression as an adjective, so you can’t say, “Look at that three sheets to the wind guy.”
When was the last time you were three sheets to the wind?

Free One-Point English Class From Long Island, NY #8 – Used to

1968 Ford Mustang Fastback from Happy English

I used to have a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, just like the photo here. It was my first car. I used to drive it everywhere. One of my friends in those days had a 1970 Mustang, and we used to try and race each other.  Now, I drive a Jeep. It’s my first car with a stick shift. I am slowly getting used to driving it now, but when I first got it,  it was hard to get used to driving a shift car. I guess as time goes by I’ll be used to it, but no car will ever be as fun to drive as my ’68 Mustang.

In English, used tohas two meanings and uses, and that is the pont for today’s One-Point English Class. Let’s have a look:

  • I used to drive it everywhere.
  • I used to eat cereal for breakfast everyday.
  • I used to live in Japan.

In these cases, used to refers to a past habit. When I was younger, I ate cereal for breakfast all the time. I dont eat cereal for breakfast anymore, it is not my habit anymore. So, I would say, “I used to eat cereal for breakfast.”

In the above examples, used to describes a past habit. The grammar is used + [V Infinitive]:  

Used to  is also used when we talk about an experience which was once  new, difficult, or strange at first, but not anymore:

  • At first I didn’t like coffee, but now I am used to drinking it.
  • Angelina is from a small town in Colombia, so she is not used to living in a big city.

As in these examples,  the grammar is be used to + [V Gerund]:

You can also follow be used to with a noun:

  • I  have lived on Long Island all my life, but I am not used to the cold winters.
  • I eat Thai food often, so I am used to the spices.

You can also say get used to something:

  • I  have lived on Long Island all my life, and I am slowly getting used to the cold winters.
  • I like Thai food often,  but I can’t get used to the spices.

So, let’s review:

  • I used to drive a car with a stick shift. (This means – I don’t drive that kind of car anymore)
  • I am used to (or got used to) driving a car with a stick shift. (This means – At first, driving such a car was strange, but now it is not strange for me )

Here are a few sentences you can practice on your own. Click the link below for the answers:

  • I got a job as a nurse, and so I need to ________(work) at night.
  • I ________(work) nights when I was a bartender.
  • Living in Manhattan is exciting, but I ________(be) to the noise.
  • My sister ________(live) in Manhattan, but now she ________(live) in LA.
  • I remember when I ________(buy) music in a store, but now I just get it online.
  • I never thought I could rollerblade, but I ________(be) to it.
  • I ________(live)  in Japan, and it took me a while to ________(eat) with chopsticks.
  • I never ________(go) to the gym, but now I go every day.

Here is the answer

Thanks for studying English today. If you are ready to take a face to face lessson, contact me today!

Please join the Happy English Facebook Fan Page too!