Do you have a tricky English grammar question? Every Friday afternoon in the Self-Access centre at St Giles London Central, our Grammar Doctor is available to help you with your questions!
Below is one recent grammar question the Doctor answered. If you have anything you would like to ask, you can ask us on our Facebook page.
Dear Grammar Doctor,
I quite often hear native speakers using this phrase: ‘I’m going to the pub’. The people obviously don’t mean any particular pub, but just going for a drink. Why do we say: the pub? I don’t know if we can say a pub in that phrase, but it doesn’t sound correct to me. Please help me. Confused from Columbia
Dear Confused from Columbia,
You are quite right as we would rarely, if ever, say: ‘I’m going to a pub’. It would be too vague. When somebody asks: ‘Shall we go to the pub?’, even if the name of the pub has not been said, he or she has already thought about each one they will probably go to. Here are some examples which work in a similar way:
‘Are you going to the mountains or the sea-side for your holidays this year?’; ‘When you next go to the supermarket, can you get me some natural yoghurt?’; ‘You’ve got a very bad cough. Have you been to see the doctor yet?’
In all of these examples, it is clear to both listener and speaker which doctor, which supermarket, which sea-side and which mountains they are thinking about. I hope this is clear. From The Grammar Doctor