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I was having a chat with one of my friends and sipping tea at the same time.

He asked me, "what are you doing?" And I replied, "I am drinking tea". It was around 11 in the morning. He said "what an English".

Please let tell me if this usage is correct in the context of US and Canadian English.

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Perfect English grammar in worldwide use. Sounds like your friend may have meant "what an English person you are!" because tea drinking is a stereotype of us English. Many people think the English love tea... and it might be true.

It's also worth noting that if you say "I am having tea" people might think you mean the meal also called tea in the UK.

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  • to be very precise, I should not use this sentence in my day to day conversation as I am not from Britain. I am having tea makes sense for me. – user58355 Nov 27 '13 at 17:25
  • In the UK, I am having tea is a parallel to I am having breakfast / lunch / dinner / supper (unless in answer to say 'What are you having to drink?'). I am drinking tea / orange juice / wine refer to the drinks. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 27 '13 at 17:28
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    No, you can definitely say "I am drinking tea". @EdwinAshworth's comment above is correct - and it's also worth noting that if you say "I am having tea" people might think you mean the meal also called tea – Jonathan Deamer Nov 27 '13 at 17:32
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    @EdwinAshworth: Tea is a meal only in some parts of the UK (other parts use Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner). Having tea can therefore mean either (esp. working class and Northern areas) having an evening meal, or (esp. upper class) meaning to sit down and have tea that has been carefully brewed in a teapot, typically with biscuits and/or cake. But we never mean having tea to mean just drinking it. For that we'd say "having a cup of tea". – Matt Nov 28 '13 at 6:54
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    Nobody will think you are having tea, the meal, if it's 11 a.m. They will understand that person is "having a cuppa". – Mari-Lou A Feb 17 '14 at 23:13
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The search on COCA shows following results:

Taking tea - 26
Having tea - 43, &
Drinking tea - 174.

Clearly, ...drinking tea is correct. Nevertheless, I think it's not a good practice to offer drinking of tea to the visitors.

Will you drink tea? - Incorrect.
Will you take/have tea? - Correct.

On the other hand, offering liquor comes as a drink.

Will you take a drink?

Also, when the case is about a soft-drink, you say:

I'm having or taking a soft drink. (Note: COCA shows one result of 'drinking a soft-drink' from Christian Science Monitor)

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    When offering a drink in the US, we're more likely to say "Would you like a cup of tea?", "would you like something to drink?", etc. Your examples sound like very formal usage to me (but might be common in the UK or elsewhere?). – The Photon Nov 28 '13 at 6:19
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    Also in the UK, we'd probably ask "Do you want a cup of tea?" or (more formal) "Would you like some tea?" or (Northern British) "(Do) You want a cuppa?". – Matt Nov 28 '13 at 6:43
  • Agreed. Though I'd better go for Would you like some tea? as offering a cup restricts the quantity! I've seen people (from Germany?) having a mug of tea! – Maulik V Nov 28 '13 at 12:03
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He asked me, "What are you doing?" And I replied, "I am drinking tea." It was around 11 in the morning. He said "what an English."

To my (American) ear, the first three sentences sound natural and grammatically correct. This use of "And" at the beginning of a sentence is informal. Many American English teachers consider it to be incorrect, but it is quite natural when recounting a conversation.

I did correct two features of the punctuation:

  • Quoted sentences should start with capital letters, just like unquoted sentences.
  • If a quoted sentence ends with a period, and the wrapper sentence also ends with a period, only the quoted sentence's period is used.

The fourth sentence sounds incorrect to me. I would expect:

He said, "How English."

I would interpret his reaction as being a commentary on what you were doing "around 11 in the morning", and not as a commentary on your dialect. Americans are more likely to drink coffee than tea.

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I am drinking tea

is a perfectly acceptable and grammatical sentence. Tea is a beverage, you drink it. It is moreover very common to have a tea break mid-morning. You could have also said,

I am having a cup of tea

Which sounds awfully British, and quite refined.

If instead you have renounced the ancient art of brewing loose tea in a teapot, and like me are now dropping a single tea bag in a chipped mug, filled with freshly boiled water, and waiting exactly one minute before fishing it out with your teaspoon, then say:

I'm having some tea.

If you say this before 4 p.m people will always understand the beverage. If you say this from 4 p.m and onwards, some British folk might think you are having a light meal, indulging yourself with Devon scones and lashings of clotted cream and jam. But only a few people. People rarely do that sort of thing at home nowadays, it's more likely a couple of rich tea biscuits, or if you're lucky, chocolate digestives. Mmmm....

EDIT
The friend who commented “What an English …” didn't get to finish their phrase, for whatever reason, they probably meant: “What an English thing to do

However, if “What an Englishwas indeed the complete statement, then he or she was at fault. English is both an adjective and a noun, but when it is used to refer to the people of England the definite article is normally used
The English, e.g. The English are a nation of tea guzzlers, every day they drink a 165 million cups.

If referring to the language, the article is not needed, e.g.; English is the third most widely spoken language in the world today.

Then there is the third meaning, english—note the small letter—which is the spin on a cricket ball.

From the context, it is clear that neither of these three meanings were being used.

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You are right to say "I am drinking tea.' It is similar to "I am drinking coffee, orange juice, water etc.' I think when your friend said 'What an English!', he meant why (the reason) you drank tea at this time of the day because the English do not drink tea at this time. Tea is a popular drink in English life. There is a story about a fight between England and Scotland. Both have habits (or customs) of drinking tea by the evening. When tea time came, they stopped fighting, got back to their tents and drank tea. After tea, they kept on fighting.