In sentences like

I would like to take you out for/to a meal.

I took her out to/for a meal.

should to or for be used? Do these prepositions equivalent here, or do they differ in meaning or usage in some way?

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    I think "for a meal" and "to have a meal" can be used but not "to a meal". Because "meal" is an answer to "why" not "where". – Zeeshan Ali Apr 20 '19 at 19:56

The usual meaning of "take out" here is romantic meeting, usually but not always with the implication that the invitee doesn't pay. "Go out" is ambiguous about who pays. (These details vary enormously depending on local customs.)

I've never heard "meal" used like this in the UK except in Macdonald's or similar ("Enjoy your meal"), in the US it's more common. In the UK it would be strange not to know which meal it is!

The examples all almost entirely equivalent:

I would like to take you out ...

  • for breakfast / lunch / dinner
  • for a lunch / a dinner / a snack / a meal
  • to breakfast / lunch / dinner
  • to a breakfast / a lunch / a dinner / a snack / a meal / a film / a movie
  • to the cinema / a restaurant / the Ritz / a place I know
  • to eat / dance / drink / see a film

"A lunch" and "a dinner" carry a slightly more formal kind of eating. "A company dinner", "a regimental dinner", "a celebratory dinner".

| improve this answer | |
  • So "to" and "for" a meal (or a dinner, lunch, etc) both possible and have the same meaning? I asked because I saw in a grammar book "to a meal" being used while I would have phrased it "for a meal". – Nutcase Apr 26 '19 at 7:09
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    A meal / a dinner etc can be either the event where you eat, or the thing that you eat. So you can say both: "to a dinner" (event) "for a dinner" (the food). – jonathanjo Apr 26 '19 at 7:36

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