He walked to the kitchenette to have (a) late lunch.

He had a piece of toast and a painkiller for (a) late lunch.

Should I use "late lunch" or "a late lunch"? And why?

2 Answers 2


"Have a late lunch" is correct. The other is incorrect.

There's a set of nouns that are so common in society that we talk about them as general societal concepts, like "I saw it on television", "I was on the phone all afternoon" or "I spent a year in prison". They either use "the" or no article. The main meals, "breakfast", "lunch" and "dinner" are in this category, along with "tea" in the UK and Ireland. "Late lunch" is not one of these general societal concepts, so we have to follow the normal rules of English and use the article "a".

  • Can "late lunch" - without the article - be used to describe behavior/pattern? He goes to the café to have late lunch. Or He comes in here everyday for his black coffee.
    – AIQ
    Oct 27, 2021 at 13:31
  • @AIQ No to your first example sentence. I've improved my answer above, which might explain why. I'm not sure what you're asking with your second example sentence. It means he comes in here every day (<-- note the space) and buys a black coffee.
    – gotube
    Oct 27, 2021 at 13:51
  • I was asking whether we can omit the articles when late lunch is something that someone always does, like He drinks black tea. It would be perfectly fine if we said "He takes his lunch late", but I am wondering if He takes late lunch is idiomatic language. I guess not.
    – AIQ
    Oct 27, 2021 at 13:59
  • 1
    @gotube The way I see it, the intrusion of the article comes because we added a modifier to the meal; it could be any modifier ("... to have an enormous lunch"). I could imagine a few modifiers which could become so bound to the meal by convention as to denote a new type of meal and not need the article: "This is our favorite place to have Sunday brunch," or "The hobbits stopped to have Second Breakfast." Oct 27, 2021 at 15:36
  • 2
    @AIQ This is getting a bit in to the weeds, but say your coworker John always eats lunch at 3PM. If someone asks "Where is John?" it would be fine to reply "He's having his late lunch". Since it's established he indeed has late lunches. That may be a bit of a contrived scenario but wanted to mention.
    – BruceWayne
    Oct 27, 2021 at 21:17

As a phrase in itself, you can have late lunch at a restaurant or event, where it usually means cold food, often from the lunch menu, served after the lunch serving ends. This often can be just so the chef has a break between lunch and the evening meal.

This is not that common a phrase though. In your examples, it is not the meaning you want.

But it's not incorrect when you want to talk about late lunch - there's a difference to going somewhere which serves lunch from 12 to 5 and having 'a late lunch' at 4, and going somewhere which serves the full lunch menu from 12 to 3 and then serves late lunch from 3 to 5 and having 'late lunch' at 4.

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