Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I once saw a sentence:

I will go to a restaurant for pie.

Native speakers didn't correct this sentence. I don't know why. I would say "I will go to a restaurant to eat a pie". But maybe that sentence was right. Could you please explain to me what that (first) sentence means?

share|improve this question
2  
In this context, "go for pie" and "go to eat pie" are essentially equivalent. But "go to eat a pie" is not the same thing! See my answer for a more detailed explanation. Great question, btw. –  J.R. Mar 31 at 17:35
    
The meaning is that you want pie (the eating is implied), so you will go to the restaurant for some pie. As others have pointed out, using an article gives it a different meaning, but 'I will go to a restaurant for pie' and 'I will go to a restaurant to eat pie' have the same meaning, since it is implied that eating is what you do with pie. –  JFA Mar 31 at 22:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I will go to a resturant for pie.

There is nothing wrong with this sentence. I imagine the speaker will soon be seated in a restaurant, ordering a slice of pie.

However:

I will go to a resturant to eat a pie.

This is the version that would make me look surprised. When you "eat a pie", that typically means you eat the whole pie.

The same could be said for cake: "eat cake" means "eat some cake", but "eat a cake" means "eat the entire cake."


We don't usually use the word "a" unless a person eats the whole thing as a single unit (in this context, "a" means "one"):

I went to the restaurant and ate a sandwich.
I went to the restaurant and ate a gyro.
I went to the restaurant and ate a salad.

or unless we specify the unit somehow:

I went to the restaurant and ate a bowl of soup.
I went to the restaurant and ate a piece of pie.
I went to the restaurant and ate a rack of ribs.
I went to the restaurant and drank a glass of wine.

But no article is used when there is an unspecified amount of food (the lack of the word "a" means "some"):

When I get to the restaurant, I'll order scrambled eggs.
When I get to the restaurant, I'll order spaghetti.
When I get to the restaurant, I'll order shrimp.
When I get to the restaurant, I'll order pie for dessert.
When I get to the restaurant, I'll get coffee.


Here's something a bit more advanced: The word "the" can be used when referring to a particular restaurant's version of a dish.

What would you like today, sir?
I'll have the veal saltimbocca.

share|improve this answer
3  
Note that you can also use drinks as countable nouns: "I'll have a coffee; he'll have a beer." Where the implication is, of course, one portion (a cup of coffee, a glass of beer). –  Mr Lister Mar 31 at 17:55
    
Mr Lister - I agree; the variations are tricky! You could also say, "I'll have a shrimp cocktail" where the implication would also be one portion (an order of shrimp cocktail). That doesn't work with all appetizers, though; I wonder if it works with shrimp cocktail because the plural of shrimp is shrimp. –  J.R. Mar 31 at 18:15
2  
In some countries (e.g. South Africa and Australia) pies are typically small enough to eat a whole one as a small meal, and are typical take-away meals. In these cases, it's fine to say "I'll have a pie for lunch." You might even have two. –  Max Mar 31 at 18:23
    
@Max - Quite true. Near where I live, we have a fellow from New Zealand who sells meat pies at a local market. So there are times when I might say, "I'm going to have a pie for lunch." Right across from his booth, though, is a baker who bakes cherry pies. If I was buying from her, I might buy a pie to take home, but I wouldn't order a pie for lunch! –  J.R. Mar 31 at 21:44
1  
@Jim: in my experience a "tart" is a small pie which can be consumed in a single sitting. I agree that a piece cut from a larger pie is never referred to as "a tart". –  Bob Jarvis Apr 1 at 11:01

In American everyday language it's correct. You can hear people saying: Let's go for pizza/pie/ice-cream/dessert, instead of saying: some/ a piece of pie, etc. Don't forget that all these words are also considered uncountable, therefore don't need the indefinite article a/an.

share|improve this answer
    
This isn't restricted to American English. (Well, the idea of going to a restaurant to order a slice of pie is an American thing, as far as I can see. But the pizza/ice-cream/dessert versions work fine in British and probably any other English.) –  David Richerby Mar 31 at 19:17

The preposition for is probably used to show the purpose.

for (#8) -used to show purpose or function

Maybe, a similar sentence would be - I'll go to a garden for a jog.

If you go a to restaurant for something, the most common word that could be used there is some dish, isn't it? to eat pie surely makes better sense but this one could be an informal or formal way of speech. Let natives write their views.

share|improve this answer
    
Just as long as you're not going to eat crow. :) Or your hat. –  Phil Perry Mar 31 at 22:33

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.