Most often you would interchangeably use either of the following, meaning you had an occasion of consuming the meal at that time.

  1. I had lunch at two thirty.
  2. I ate lunch at two thirty.

Now, if you closely looked at the length or speed of the eating action, and wanted to tell the listener that you consumed the food quickly, you would say 4 more often than 3.

  1. I had lunch quickly.
  2. I ate lunch quickly.

Then, how about if you are to use 'a quick lunch'? I favor 5, and wouldn't tend to say 6 when careful. Am I on the right track?

  1. I had a quick lunch.
  2. I ate a quick lunch.
  • Go for option 5 because you eat 'food' and lunch is directly not food, but a term for that. Adjective quick can be applied in such case to 'fasten' up the process. Say, quick look.. – Maulik V May 27 '17 at 5:55
  • @Maulik then why are there so many results in Google Books for ate a quick lunch? – green_ideas May 27 '17 at 16:58
  • Both 5 and 6 are idiomatic. – green_ideas May 27 '17 at 16:58
  • @Clare it is almost at the bottom of the results on Ngram. 'Had a quick lunch' is way above it! – Maulik V May 29 '17 at 11:07

You are correct, the idiomatic expression is

I had a quick lunch.
I grabbed a quick bite to eat for lunch

in the same way

We had a working lunch

The reason for #4 is the adverb "quickly"

ate quickly

is much preferred over

had quickly

  • 1
    While had a quick lunch is probably used more often, ate a quick lunch is also idiomatic. A Google book search verifies this. – green_ideas May 27 '17 at 16:57

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