“vacation” versus “a vacation”

When is it appropriate to use a with vacation?

For instance, I found these examples in the dictionaries:

You look tired — you should take a vacation.

When are you taking vacation this year?

What’s the difference between the two sentences? Why one of them uses a vacation and the other simply vacation?

And then, when do you say go on vacation and go on a vacation?

(Examples from the COCA)

A: Where do you go on vacation?

B: The beach. I love to travel, but I don’t get to much.


A: Kids, we’re about to go on a vacation!

B: Hooray! We’re going to Disney World!

I’m so confused!


To take…

For me, this one always uses "a".

To take a vacation.

However, if you change it to a noun (gerund) it can lose the "a":

Taking vacations is my favorite past-time.

I speak American English, so, it may be that "to take vacation" doesn’t sound wrong to British English speakers.

To go on…

Both with and without "a" sound fine, but possibly with a small difference.

I went on a vacation last week. Where did you go?

I went on vacation last week. Oh, that explains why you weren’t in the office.

To me, "to go on a vacation" seems more exciting than without a. I would use the second version, if I do not intend to tell people where I went, but rather, just want to tell them I was gone (although they might still ask anyway).

The perspective is a little different.

I went on a vacation to Italy. (the place you went to)

I went on vacation from work. (the place you left)

But you could also say,

I went on vacation to the Bahamas.

To be on…

Same as To go on…, the article just changes the emphasis a bit.

Hello, this is XYZ Management Services. How can I help you?

Could you transfer me to Susan?

I’m sorry, she’s on vacation till next week, do you need help with your account?

Source : Link , Question Author : stillenat , Answer Author : Xantix

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