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    #1

    They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Hello.

    Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Cambridge University Press
    They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Shouldn't weeks be weeks'?

    Thank you.


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    #2

    Re: They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daruma View Post
    Hello.

    Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Cambridge University Press
    They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Shouldn't weeks be weeks'?

    Thank you.

    That's a good observation. I would say yes and no. It depends on how one reads the sentence. I'm certain there will be those who disagree with me, and I can understand why. However, I think one can view this in two ways. Here's how I explain it.

    They finally reached the coast after sailing for five weeks.
    They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    We can read these two sentences as "sailing" being strictly an action not belonging to "five weeks".

    They don't mind me using their sailboat. no possession of using - just an action
    They don't mind my using their sailboat. - possession of "using" - not very usual, but correct - and a good example to contribute to my explanation here

    They finally reached the coast after five weeks of sailing. - Sailing belongs to five weeks .
    They finally reached the coast after five weeks' sailing. Sailing is possessed by five weeks.


    It might be surprising, but many native speaker writers forget about - or don't even think about - using an apostrophe in an example such as this. I'm not saying that one shouldn't. This is just an observation.


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    #3

    Re: They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    By the way, I believe in being attentive to details in writing. And this apostrophe is an important detail. However, in the example sentence posted here from Cambridge Dictionaries, I don't think leaving out the apostrophe in this particular sentence is going to make or break good writing.

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    #4

    Re: They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daruma View Post
    Hello.

    Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Cambridge University Press
    They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Shouldn't weeks be weeks'?

    Thank you.
    This is a very common dilemma. I tend to leave out the apostrophe unless it is very obvious that it's necessary. (Maybe I'm one of PROESL's natives who don't even think about it sometimes)
    I would use it in "That's three days' wages", because the wages 'belong' in some way to three days. But the sailing doesn't necessarily 'belong' in this way to 'five weeks'.
    This is sometimes very subtle, and I don't blame natives for getting this one wrong at times.

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    #5

    Re: They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    This is a very common dilemma. I tend to leave out the apostrophe unless it is very obvious that it's necessary. (Maybe I'm one of PROESL's natives who don't even think about it sometimes)
    I am normally fairly fussy about these apostrophes, but in this case I agree it is not necessary here, at least on one reading.

    It is perhaps clearer if we compare the singular:

    After a year sailing around the Pacific (a year in which we sailed...)
    After a year's sailing around the Pacific (sailing... to the tune of one year)

    Both correct, in my books.

    (PS - I think the construction without the apostrophe is more natural when "sailing" has some kind of additional material with it. I think Daruma's original example is more naturally read as the other kind of construction, the one that does want an apostrophe. I don't know why.)
    Last edited by orangutan; 19-Aug-2009 at 17:31. Reason: Adding PS


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    #6

    Re: They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Do you say They finally reached the coast after a five-week sailing?

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    #7

    Re: They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daruma View Post
    Do you say They finally reached the coast after a five-week sailing?
    I don't think that is idiomatic. A five-week voyage, or even perhaps a five-week sail (?) would work.


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    #8

    Re: They finally reached the coast after five weeks sailing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daruma View Post
    Do you say They finally reached the coast after a five-week sailing?
    It's unusual, though in a technical sense one could say it's correct.

    What makes it unusual is that we don't often - or ever - use the ing form of "sailing" as the object of a preposition. What did you think of the sailing? - mmm ... I don't know. I wouldn't use "sailing" as the object of a preposition.

    We would use "sailing" as a subject, as in "Sailing is fun." In this case, "sailing" is a gerund because it is a subject - a verbal noun.

    We normally use "sailing" as an adjective, so we can say, "They finally reached the coast after a five-week sailing trip." In this sentence "sailing" is a participle used as an adjective.

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