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Consider the following sentence:

"We will have dinner (at/in/on) (-/a/the) restaurant"

I believe that if I mention restaurant for the first time, then I always must use "I am at a restaurant". So I can't say "I will have a dinner at,in,on the restaurant".

I am so confused about which option is more common, correct and natural to say.

Please, help me with this sentence and the prepositions within it.

  • 2
    possible duplicate of To eat at/in a restaurant – Adil Ali Mar 23 '14 at 13:03
  • It's not, despite what the final sentence says, since OP is asking about the article, not the prepositions (based on which words are in bold). – Alicja Z Mar 27 '14 at 17:41
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If the restaurant hasn't been mentioned before, you would use "a". If it has been mentioned, or if it's obvious which restaurant you're talking about, you would use "the". In no situation would you skip the article altogether.

As for prepositions, "in" and "at" would be ok, "on" would never work.

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The prepositions

Only the prepositions in and at work in this sentence. On does not work in combination with the noun restaurant.

The articles

The indefinite article a is indeed used if the restaurant has not yet been mentioned by the speaker before. It is also used when speaking about a restaurant in general:

I like eating at a restaurant.

In this case the plural of the noun can also be used (with a zero article):

I like eating at restaurants.

You use the definite article the if the restaurant is known in the context or if it has been mentioned before.

I like eating at the restaurant on the corner.

In that sentence it is clearly known which restaurant is being spoken about because it is specified by on the corner.

Or known via context: Suppose the speaker works at a restaurant. If that person then talks about the restaurant, the hearer will know which restaurant is being talked about because the speaker works there and the hearer knows this.

You cannot leave out the article in your sentence.

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