Differentiating between similar-sounding English words can challenge even the most seasoned English speakers.

Such is the challenge raised by ‘operating hour’ and ‘operation hour.’ Both “operating hour” and “operation hour” are grammatically correct. However, “operating hour” is more popularly used compared to operation hour. 

“Operating hours” refer to working hours or business hours. It describes the time in hours when a business is accessible to customers or when a production plant is in service.

Typically, operating hours start at 8:00 am and end at 5:00 pm from Monday through Friday. Examples in a sentence include:

“The ferry’s operating hours are over,” and “You only receive your payment after accumulating 40 operating hours weekly.” 

“Operation hours” refer to the hours recognized by a system as effective or that are ‘in action.’

Examples in sentences are “How many operation hours can this torch afford me?” and “This is the battery’s final operation hour.”

However, the phrase operational hour is mainly used in place of operation hour. Sentence examples are:

“The operational hours of each appliance should be indicated” and “Her coupon will remain operational for the next three hours.” 

Differences between “operating hour” and “operation hour”

Foremost, operating hour describes the number of working hours recorded in a company or organization.

“Operating hours” usually range from eight hours to twelve hours every day. For example, “Plant operating hours” and “Bank operating hours.”

In contrast, operation hour refers to the service hours provided by particular objects or processes. Examples include “Clock operation hours” and “Website’s operation hours.”

Compared to operating hours, operation hours can either be extremely short or extremely long.

For example, “This watch has more than 20 operation hours” and “This procedure should take a minimum of two operation hours.”

Additionally, operating is a verb and the present participle of the word operate. Operating refers to the process of controlling the functioning of either a system, process, or machine.

Conversely, “operation” is a noun that describes the action of working, method of functioning, and quality of being operative. Another distinction between the two phrases is their application.

While it is grammatically correct to state “hour of operation” when referring to operation hour, that is not the case for “operating hour”. To reiterate, it is wrong to state “hour of operating.”

Similarities between “operating hour” and “operation hour”

The phrases ‘operating hour’ and ‘operation hour’ are similar in some aspects. One aspect is that both terms are derived from the intransitive verb operate.

Likewise, “operating hour” and “operation hour” can be used interchangeably in some cases to communicate the same message.

When asking about an establishment’s business hours, we can either say, “The bakery’s operating hours” or “The bakery’s operation hours.”

These two statements relay the same message: how many hours the bakery is open to customers. 

Take away

Most people believe that “operating hour” is a grammatically correct phrase compared to “operation hour”.

However, both of these phrases are correct, though they differ in their application. Operating hour describes the number of working hours of a business or company.

In contrast, operation hour describes the hours of service provided by a specific process or object. In some cases, ‘hour of operation’ is used when referring to ‘operation hour.’

Derived from the same verb, ‘operate,’ operating hour and operation hour can be used interchangeably in particular circumstances.

However, one should be careful to avoid the wrong application of the two phrases. A good rule of thumb is to use “operating hour” when referring to service delivery and operation hour when describing the functionality of an object or process.

Another tip is to read the sentences out loud. If the sentence sounds wrong, it probably is, and vice versa.

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