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I possess the Cobuild Advanced Learner's Dictionary and I came across this weird expression for a non-native speaker which is "To take the dog to the vet's". I do infer they are talking about the veterinarian's office and that the letter s is showing the possession of a building by the vet. But the question is... How often do English speakers use this type of abbreviations? and is my inference correct?

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    You may also see vet written as v-e-t, indicating that the word is to be spelled out rather than spoken, so that the dog, who presumably cannot spell, is not forewarned of the event. Jan 15 at 17:27
  • As an American pet owner my entire life (nearly 50), I have always, always said "to the vet". Saying "To the vet's" would sound extremely weird.
    – JVC
    Jan 16 at 23:49
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First, in British English (the variety I know) an "animal doctor" is almost always referred to as a vet, and more formally as a veterinary surgeon (or possibly other words replacing "surgeon"). I have never encountered the word veterinarian in Britain.

I know things are different in US English, but I can't speak about what's common. I know that people do talk about a vet there, despite its other meaning of "a veteran (from the armed services)", and I believe the word veterinarian is the normal more formal word.

As for go to the vet's: yes, very common. Just like go to the doctor's. We also say I took my dog to the vet: saying the vet's refers to the establishment - the practice or clinic, rather than to the vet himself/herself; but in practice there is no difference in the use or meaning.

Edit: There's been considerable discussion in the comments as to whether anybody actually says to the vet's in this sense (as opposed to to the vet), so I looked at the GloWbE database, and found that to the vet's (not followed by a possessed noun such as "office" or "room") occurs only 28 times - 11 from UK, 6 from US; whereas to the vet excluding talk to the vet occurs 1286 times, 325 from US and 232 from UK. (By inspection very few of these are vet = "veteran"). It is clear that to the vet is much more common than to the vet's everywhere. But the latter is relatively more common in the UK, though the numbers are small: 4.7% vs 1.8%.

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    Yep, we say veterinarian on this side of the pond. Everything else you mention holds here, too. Although... I don’t know why, but I’d be more likely to say “go to the doctor’s” but “take my dog to the vet.”
    – thehole
    Jan 14 at 3:36
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    @thehole Yeah. Taking yourself to the vets would be weird, unless you started barking or something.
    – Strawberry
    Jan 14 at 12:36
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    Contextually, there is another meaning for ‘go to the vet’s’ in the US. I live near a major US Air Force base which also has a Veterans Health Administration hospital, and there are some people around here who refer to that as the ‘vet’ (though ‘VA’ or ‘VA hospital’ are both far more common). Jan 14 at 12:45
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    In the US, or at least my part of it, it's more common to leave off the 's, e.g "go to the vet", go to the doctor", &c.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 14 at 17:09
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    @KirkWoll (American, east coast) "The vet's" meaning "the vet's office"* is common enough here that if someone said "The vet's what?" in that context then I would probably think they were being a smart alec. Just like "I'm going to Bob's" generally means "I'm going to Bob's place of residence". * The vet's "office" here is the place where the vet sees animals--in British English I think they would say the vet's "surgery" or "clinic". Jan 14 at 18:07
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In US English, "vet" is a common abbreviation for "veterinarian". (It's also an abbreviation for "veteran", meaning a former member of the armed forces. Context should tell you which one is meant.) I hear "to the vet" much more than "to the vet's" but they're both understandable.

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    At least in the part of the Southeastern U.S. where I live "to the vet's" is very common, though "to the vet" is also quite common. Of course, in the former case, 'office' is implied with the meaning "to the vet[erinarian]'s [office]."
    – reirab
    Jan 15 at 1:46
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    "vet" also is a verb meaning to examine. And if it's spelled "vette", it's an abbreviation of "Corvette". Jan 16 at 22:13
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the question is how often do English speakers use this type of abbreviation

In British usage, all the time. That is the only word I have ever used in conversation. I don't think I have ever spoken the word veterinary although, of course, I know the word from reading it.

The vet's means the vet's surgery or the vet's practice**


I'm taking Rover to the vet. (Amongst dog-owners I have met this can lead to a question about whether surgical neutering is implied)

I'm taking Rover to the vet's.

I'm going to the vet's to collect Rover after his operation.

I'm going to the vet!!! (This would mean that I have a medical problem and will ask an animal doctor to cure me!)


practice noun (WORK) a job or business that involves a lot of skill or training: a dental/medical/veterinary/legal practice Our practice is responsible for about 5,000 patients. She's decided to leave the Health Service and join a private practice.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/practice

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    It doesn't imply neutering.
    – user253751
    Jan 14 at 16:55
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    @Graham As an American who consumes some British media, I know what a "pub" is, but did not know that it was short for "public house". Jan 14 at 17:52
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    @Peter Cordes - I have edited my claim to make it less definite. As a long-time owner of dogs, I'm used to the euphemism, following a dog's amorous behaviour, "I think he needs to see the vet!" Jan 14 at 19:45
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    @chasly-supportsMonica and Peter Cordes, whereas when my wife told me that she's taking me to the vet she definitely implied for neutering.
    – Joel Brown
    Jan 14 at 19:59
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    @chasly-supportsMonica: Yes, I'm familiar with the euphemistic use, which is in common usage when there is context that would support it. I forgot to mention that in my previous comment. But yeah, it's a weaker (if that's the word) euphemism, unlike like "sleep together" where you need extra phrasing to use the literal meaning. Jan 14 at 20:18
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You asked whether "Go to ___'s" is common in English, beyond this one case. As a US native speaker of a Southern/Midwestern dialect, I can say that it is, in at least a few other cases.

  • "I'm going to Nancy's." This implies that I am going to Nancy's home. (Of course, this term could also refer a local business named Nancy's; it is fairly common to name a small business after the owner, sometimes with no noun attached to the possessive; I would think of this as Nancy's place, although it might be confusing to call it that.)
  • "I'm going to the doctor's." This implies going to the doctor's office.

There are probably more cases I can't think of right now.

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Yes, this type of elision is common in English.

For instance,

I got my master's, but, ironically, my current job pays less than the previous!. ("master's degree")

I passed my driver's, but my parents still don't let me borrow the car. ("driver's license test")

Note that in English, the full name of a place can be a possessive.

I had no time for breakfast, so I swung by McDonald's for Bacon 'n' Egg McMuffin.

"Eat at Joe's!"

This simply follows from being able to do the same with anyone's home.

There's a party at Bob's next Saturday!

(Bob's house)

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  • In the UK, in recent years (10-20) saying "Come back to mine" (e.g. after the pub) has become common. Jan 16 at 10:05
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It means: Go to the vet's office.

vet's = veterinarian's

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    – Patriot
    Feb 9 at 10:43

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