'On Vacation' or 'On a Vacation': Which is Correct?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 28, 2023

You might have seen both phrases being used and wondered which one is correct, between 'on vacation' or 'on a vacation.' This article will clarify the proper usage.

In short, 'on vacation' is the correct phrase, but 'on a vacation' is commonly used and is acceptable.

Is It 'On Vacation' or 'On a Vacation'?

Both phrases' on vacation' and 'on a vacation' tend to get used interchangeably. So what's the difference? And which one is correct?

That's what we're about to find out. But first, what does 'vacation' mean?

'Vacation' Definition

The word 'vacation' is a noun, most of the time. And it can have three different meanings:

  • The period when schools are closed
    Paramount High is closed for the summer vacation.
  • Time off from work
    You have three vacation days to take before the end of the year.
  • A trip you take during your time off from school or work
    I'm planning a vacation to the Bahamas.

'Vacation' can also be employed as a verb, in which case it takes on the third definition and can be conjugated in any tense.

Last year we vacationed in Paris.

The Brits don't say 'vacation'; they use 'holiday.'

Top Tip! 'Vacation' can be either a countable or uncountable noun.

Which is Correct?

Now we're clear on the definition of the word; how should we use it? Do we need the article 'a,' or is it correct without it?

The answer is that 'on vacation' is the correct phrase.

However, 'on a vacation' is commonly used, and no one will hold it against you if you say that because not many people know that it is grammatically incorrect. But now, you do!

One instance when you do need the article is when you say, 'take a vacation.' In that case, 'a' is indispensable.

You could say 'on the vacation' if you were talking about a specific vacation, for example:

I'm in the Bahamas. Remember the vacation I told you about?

You could also use possessive adjectives such as 'my' or 'your':

This is my only vacation of the year; please don't ruin it.

Did you enjoy your vacation?

But when using the preposition 'on,' the official, accurate way to say it is 'on vacation.'

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Vacation'

Do you know how to pronounce 'vacation'? If you do, you can skip to the next section. If you don't, you're about to find out.

'Vacation' rhymes with 'station,' 'creation,' and 'dalmatian.' If it were spelled as it sounds, it would look like this:

[ vay-kay-shuhn ]

The International Phonetics Alphabet spells it like this:

/ veɪˈkeɪ ʃən /

How to Use 'On Vacation'

Let's take a look at some examples of the phrase 'on vacation' used in a sentence.

Time flies when you're on vacation.

My husband has gone on vacation with his friends.

The kids always enjoy themselves on vacation.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope you found this article helpful. Here's what we learned:

  • 'On vacation' is the correct phrase, so you should always try to use this one
  • 'On a vacation' is commonly used
  • 'Vacation' is a noun and a verb

If you'd like to continue improving your English skills, head to our blog to learn about more confusing words.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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