oet-week and three weeks
OET Grammar, OET For Doctors, OET Writing, OET For Nurses

In the OET Writing sub-test, it is important to get your grammar, punctuation and spelling correct. There is one area which most people (not just OET candidates) struggle with and it has to do with the disappearance of the ‘s’ in hyphenated words. Consider the following:

  • He will be in Melbourne for three weeks.
  • He has gone for a three-week course in Melbourne.

Some common questions students ask are:

  • Why do we need an ‘s’ for ‘three weeks’ but not for ‘three-week’?
  • Why do we need a hyphen for ‘three-week’ and not ‘three weeks’?

Let’s keep it simple. The general rule is when a noun depicts a quantity of more than one, then we need to add an ‘s’ at the end to show plurality of countable nouns, as below:

Examples of countable nouns When there is one of it When there are two of them When there are three of them And so on…
Week  One week Two weeks Three weeks Four weeks, ten weeks, etc.
Year  One year Two years Three years Eleven years, twenty years, etc
Night  One night Two nights Three nights Seven nights, eight nights, etc.

However, bear in mind that sometimes we use these words in their hyphenated form. Once it is hyphenated,we drop the ‘s’, regardless of how many ‘weeks’, ‘days’ or ‘years’ we are referring to. So it will look like this:

Once it is hyphenated
One week One-week
One year One-year
One night One-night
Once it is hyphenated
Two weeks Two-week
Two years Two-year
Two nights Two-night
Once it is hyphenated
Three weeks Three-week
Three years Three-year
Three nights Three-night

OET Writing
The next thing you need to know is how to use the hyphenated version. Well, we use the hyphenated version when we place it in BEFORE a noun. In this case, it is used as an adjective phrase to describe the noun. Consider this:

  • I had a lovely holiday.

The word ‘lovely’ is an adjective that comes BEFORE the noun ‘holiday’. So, ‘lovely’ describes the ‘holiday’. Instead of just saying ‘I had a holiday’, you want to describe the holiday a bit more so you added the adjective ‘lovely’. It works the same way when you use ‘three-week’, as you can see below.

Adjective(describing the noun) Noun
I had a lovely holiday.
I had a three-week holiday.

Can you see how that works? So we can say the following, and they would be correct.

  • His two-night stay in the ward was necessary. (‘stay’ comes after the adjective phrase)
  • He lost his three-year battle with cancer. (‘battle’ comes after the adjective phrase)
  • The seventy-year-old patient has been place in the ICU. (‘patient’ comes after the adjective phrase)

It’s easy! Don’t forget the other way of writing though. If you were not using it as an adjective phrase, then you will go back to the usual rule of adding an ‘s’ to show plurality of countable nouns. See the comparisons below.

  • His two-night stay in the ward was necessary.
  • He stayed in the ward for two nights.
  • He lost his three-year battle with cancer.
  • He lost his battle with cancer after fighting for three years.
  • The seventy-year-old patient has been place in the ICU.
  • The patient in the ICU is seventy years old.

It takes a bit of getting used to but with practice, you should be able to get it right! Remember these rules when you sit for your OET Writing sub-test.

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