I take tea.
I drink tea.

What's the difference between these two sentences?


I disagree slightly with previous answers that say these are the same.

True, there are certain situations where "take tea" and "drink tea" could be used interchangeably, but there are more situations where they are not.

"Drink tea" very specifically describes the act or action of drinking. If someone said "I drink tea" you could take it to mean they have a preference for tea over other hot beverages such as coffee, but equally it could mean they drink it as well as other things.

"Take tea" is a particular British English idiom, rarely used nowadays except in extremely formal situations, but it carries two very specific inferences:

  1. A preference for tea

    Example: "I don't take coffee, I take tea, my dear"

  2. The act of taking a break for tea, which may include other items as well.

    Example: "Let's take afternoon* tea"

*_"Afternoon tea" or "high tea" are British terms for a "bridge meal" between lunch and dinner which may include sandwiches and cakes along with tea (or, paradoxically, coffee!). These can also be abbreviated to simply "tea" which is why the two are not simply interchangeable. Additionally, some northern regions of England it is common for the main evening meal to be called "tea" (although this is far from formal and is never referred to as "taking tea").

One previous answer compares usage of "drinking tea" and "taking tea" on an Ngram, which I find very misleading as these are not so easily interchangeable:

He is drinking tea

Describes someone presently having a drink of tea.

He is taking tea

Could describes somebody having a tea break, possibly afternoon/high tea as previously described, possibly now, but possibly in the future.

When you compare the slightly more interchangeable "drink tea" and "take tea" using the same database of Google books the results are different to drinking/taking.

  • 1
    How do you take your tea (or coffee) is also common when asking how the tea or coffee should be prepared before drinking—even in the U.S., although usually with hot tea, except in parts of the country where one must specify whether iced tea is sweet tea or regular.
    – choster
    Jun 22 '18 at 22:06
  • Actually high tea is not the same as 'afternoon tea'. Nov 11 at 16:19
  • @KateBunting they don't traditionally feature the same food, but they are both bridge meals including tea and served in the afternoon. I'm quite happy that for the purpose of answering this question, which is about language, not food, this answer I wrote 3 and a half years ago is still fit for purpose. You are getting desperate.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 13 at 17:11
  • I was browsing the site and forgot that this was an old post! I don't see high tea as a 'bridge meal'. but a substantial early evening meal. Nov 13 at 17:40

There is no difference in meaning between the two sentences – it's pretty much a geographical variation.

The first is idiomatic in British English (although it is heard less regularly nowadays), and the second in North American and Australian English.

And, there is having tea. Thanks, @Raj 33.

See this graph to compare usage.


Take X is equivalent to eat X or drink X if X is also:

  • a medicine;

  • the meal or beverage you consume during a break; (e.g., take lunch)

  • a shot of a strong alcoholic beverage (break for some, medicine for others)

  • I'm confused; how does one eat or drink a break?
    – J.R.
    Jun 23 '18 at 1:12
  • You eat or drink while you are on break. E.g. take lunch.
    – LawrenceC
    Jun 23 '18 at 1:51
  • Ah. If I was a learner reading your answer as it was originally written, I'd wonder if you were saying that "take five" is the same as "eat five" or "drink five". I think maybe you meant, "if X is also the food or beverage you consume during a break," not, "if X is also a break." (I took the liberty of editing your answer, but, if you don't like my edit, you can make it something more suitable to your tastes.)
    – J.R.
    Jun 23 '18 at 10:46

Both have the same meaning.
"I take tea" is the British usage.
"I drink tea" uses drink here, as drink mostly is used for a beverage.

  • Please be careful about your grammar while providing an answer.
    – Bella Swan
    Jul 17 '19 at 7:32

take: we only can use when we talk about medicine
E.g. I took medicine at 8 AM in the morning

While have, drink: I have/drink tea or water twice after taking medicine

Anyhow have and take also use when we ask someone to sit down
E.g. have or take a seat etc.

  • It's rare that a word in English can "only" be used in a certain context – particularly a word like take which has dozens of definitions. Ever heard of someone taking a shot of whiskey?
    – J.R.
    Jun 22 '18 at 12:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .