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I had the following test question:

“Could you get _____________ drinks when you go to the shops, please?”

A) –

B) a

C) the

My reasoning:

A) “zero article” or “some” – possible, but not very likely, since this idiom might mean a request to imbibe alcohol; it would be better to say “could you buy…”

B) “a” - is out of question, because “drinks” is plural

C) it’s got to be “the”

Correct answer: A.

Is answer “C” ungrammatical? Can “get drinks” mean “buy or procure drinks”?

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    Worth noting, I think: go to the shops, while understandable, doesn't sound very idiomatic – at least not to my (American) ear. This is a strange test question indeed. – J.R. Nov 4 '19 at 22:20
  • To me it sounded as if the asker had some particular shops in mind. – Zak Nov 5 '19 at 3:16
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All 3 versions are wrong as they ask if it is physically possible for "you" to purchase some drinks (that is, do the shops stock drinks), when I'm sure that what is meant is a request to actually purchase them. So the sentence should start "Would you get ..."

As you say, B does not work as the singular article does not match the plural "drinks" and "get a drink" usually means actually drink something (not necessarily alcoholic) when you are at the shops.

Either A or C is reasonable idiomatic English, but I agree with your changing "get" to "buy" as it removes any ambiguity from the request. So your request becomes

Would you buy some / the / - drinks when you go to the shops, please?

Slightly better is to start with please so that the listener doesn't get the idea that it was an afterthought. My final preferred version would be

Would you please buy some drinks when you go to the shops?

  • I thought that “could” makes a request more polite… – Zak Nov 4 '19 at 17:47
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    See this answer . Briefly the answer says "Technically, "could" is asking if you are able to do X, while "would" asks if you are willing to do X. – Peter Jennings Nov 4 '19 at 18:22
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    "C" could make sense if the previous conversation was discussing particular drinks. "A" is better if you are leaving the type of drinks to their discretion. – ProfessorFluffy Nov 4 '19 at 20:05
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In spoken US English, both A and C would be acceptable. While "get drinks" can imply that you will actually be drinking it as well, the phrase is often used for the ordering process. But from context, your implication (an request to go to store to order and drink it there) is unlikely.

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