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?
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%.
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.
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.
Yes, this type of elision is common in English.
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!