8

What differences in meaning between this:

I'd like to have something to drink.

and this:

I'd like to drink something.

I'm listening English audio course, and there are used "to have something to drink" variant. But I think the second variant would be much easier. Or it's not correct?

In audio course:

HE - Would you like to have something to drink?

SHE - No, thanks. I'd like to have something to eat.

Why they can't use these?

HE - Would you like to drink something?

SHE - No, thanks, I'd like to eat something.

  • You can use "HE - Would you like to drink something?" but it would normally only be used in a situation where "HE" thinks "SHE" is might be in a state where "she" can't or won't ask for what she wants, or doesn't know what she wants - for example because "she" has suddenly been taken ill and may be too confused to think clearly, or because "she" can't speak (either for a permanent or temporary reason). – alephzero Oct 5 '18 at 20:13
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    Good question, it's a subtle distinction and difficult to identify why one construct works and the other doesn't. But I think that another alternative "I'd like a drink" is more colloquial than either of your sentences. – Michael Kay Oct 6 '18 at 1:03
  • There is essentially no difference in meaning between these phrases. The accepted answer greatly over-emphasises a nuance, which could just as forcefully be expressed according to the vocalisation of either phrase. Incidentally, "I'd like a drink, please", is a more colloquial way of saying the same thing. – Strawberry Oct 6 '18 at 12:20
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The difference is somewhat subtle, but the shifting around of the words really does change the emphasis, with that emphasis being on what directly follows the main verb:

I'd like something to drink.

This emphasizes that you care about the something rather than the act of drinking. This is most often used in restaurants or other situations where you're going to order or request that something, whether it's a glass or wine or a cup of coffee or whatever.

I'd like to drink something.

This emphasizes act of drinking and would be used to express that you're thirsty and might not really care what you're given to drink. In fact, I'd more likely use the phrase "to drink something" with a stronger verb than just a mere "like" - for example, if you've just finished playing soccer on a hot day, you might say:

I need to drink something!

This is not a polite request for a glass of soda from a waiter - this is an expression of extreme thirst and you're asking for an unspecified quantity of thirst-quenching liquid of any variety.

  • all is clear now but what about "to have something to drink"? It's = "I'd like something to drink". In what situations is "to have" used? – user79871 Oct 5 '18 at 17:33
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    I think the "to have" makes it slightly more polite by de-empahsizing any sense of urgency. – Canadian Yankee Oct 5 '18 at 17:36
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    "have something to drink" implies that it's an event. E.g. "Let's have drinks sometime" suggests that you want to plan a visit to a bar. – fectin Oct 6 '18 at 15:50
3

The slight difference between the two is that "Would you like something to drink?" implies a request for a specific liquid where "would you like to drink something?" is a more general question that doesn't convey whether you have a choice of beverage.

3

"I'd like to have something to drink." The speaker does not possess a drink at the moment, and would like to possess a drink. They are not concerned about drinking at this exact moment.

"I'd like to drink something." The speaker would like to consume a drink at this very moment. They may or may not possess a drink.

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