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The sentence I took from my English course exercise:

'What are we going to eat?' 'Well, I can do steak and chips.'

I don't think that do steak and chips literally means the speaker will make those foods (I'm not familiar with those either). I guess, it has something similar construction when we use a binomial such as part and parcel, wine and dine, etc. If that really means what it actually says, then why the speaker doesn't say:

'I can make steak and chips.'

I believe, that the verb make is used together with food and meals according to this site. That's why I'm wondering what do steak and chips really means.

Edit: Since some people are questioning the context, this short conversation is taken from my English course exercise that I've mentioned above. The instruction of the exercise is:

Put in can or can't if possible; if not use will/won't be able to.

The question:

'What are we going to eat?' 'Well, I __ do steak and chips.'

I don't think will is appropriate and that's what the answer key says as well. It has no further detail.

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    Looking at the quiz at site you link to they have an example sentence of "Can you _____ dinner tonight?". They only accept make but IMO either do or make could work here. do would be more informal but the same site explains the mechanism ("You can also use ‘do’ informally to replace a verb with an obvious meaning.")
    – user133831
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 12:53
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    to do food is to make it. Very colloquial.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 19:41
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    @Lambie, "to do food" can also mean they are willing to eat it. It's very natural for someone to say "I'm hungry for steak" and someone to answer "I can do that, too". This doesn't mean the 2nd person wants to make the steak, but is willing to also eat steak. Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 20:06
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    @Lambie, sure it does. "Want to go on a date with me?" "Sure, lets do drinks at this pub I know." or "Let's do lunch." ; "I'm hungry." "Yep, I could do (with some) food, too." ; "I'm bored, want to crash a party?" "Ok, I could do (with a) party." ; "Want to go on a roller coaster?" "All right, I can do that!" The word "do" is extremely flexible here. The only way to know what it's supposed to be is with more context. Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 20:16
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    Where I grew up in the west of Scotland we used "go" rather than "do" - as in "I could go a fish supper on the way home." Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 0:50

8 Answers 8

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Steak and chips (also known by the French name steak frites) is a classic meal across much of Western Europe. It's not a binomial phrase with any other meaning, as far as I'm aware.

It is possible that the speaker means "make steak and chips" when they say "I can do steak and chips."

Another likely possibility is that the speaker means "I'd be happy to eat steak and chips" and is using this construction to suggest a meal choice. "Do" can also be understood as "have" in this particular use.

Person A: What do you want for dinner?

Person B: I could do Thai or pizza.

Person A: Let's do pizza.

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    It would be a fairly simple meal to make, especially if the cook uses pre-prepared frozen chips (French fries). I would understand it to mean "Steak and chips is a meal I could easily prepare for us." Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 9:00
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    I think from the limited example given by the OP, it could just as easily be either. Further context would probably be needed to come to an absolute conclusion. Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 9:11
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    I think in the OP's example, as its can rather than could it is more likely an offer to make. If it was could then its more ambiguous. IMO anyway.
    – user133831
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 12:50
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    I'd pretty definitely interpret it the second way in this context
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:39
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    @KateBunting: Definitely a possibility, but the phrase is just as common in the context of "I wouldn't mind having [x]"
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:57
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One of the definitions of “do” is “accept” or “agree to.”

For example, if I said, “When can you come in for an interview?” you could say “I could do Thursday,” which means Thursday is an answer that works for you.

“I could do steak and chips” means “I would be okay with eating steak and chips for lunch.” The most likely interpretation would be that they are going to a restaurant that serves steak and chips, although theoretically they could be talking about making it themselves.

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    It's steak and chips, not fish! Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 8:48
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    @KateBunting: Yes indeed - a fish and chip shop doesn't usually do steak and chips :-)
    – psmears
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 10:07
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    @psmears Unless it's salmon steak.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:24
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    @Barmar: That would be a very classy fish and chip shop!
    – psmears
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 15:27
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    With "can do" as the verb, I'd take the more likely interpretation as "I can make steak and chips". For the interpretation of "I would accept" I would expect "could" or "would", as most of the examples show. But yes, steak and chips means beefsteak and french fried potatoes, what would be called steak-frites on some menus.
    – CCTO
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 20:52
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The context here is limited - we don't know who the speakers are or where they are speaking. "Do" is a very flexible verb - which can substitute for many other verbs, but it seems to me the most likely interpretation is that "do steak and chips" means "prepare and cook steak and chips".

In a context such as a group of friends are planning to hold a dinner party. One person volunteers to cook. Then the conversation could be as given. "Make" would be an alternative, however I'd prefer "do" in a casual context, as it can include (implicitly) other aspects "I can cook, and serve to you all". Just saying "make" seems to omit this implied sense of service.

The conversation could continue:

If you can do the main meal, I'll do the wine.

I'll do a dessert, and George can do the entertainment.

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Almost definitely, the second speaker is saying "I can make steak and chips", meaning they will cook/prepare steak and chips for both speakers to eat for dinner.

Considering the context of your example, the second speaker is offering a solution to the problem "What are we going to eat?" To say "I can do ..." definitely sounds like they are offering to provide the food, as opposed to "let's have ...", "how about ...?", or "I feel like ..." which would have been used if they were just throwing around what they felt like eating. They've used an idiomatic pattern in this case that is applied in cases where the replier is offering to prepare the meal.

In addition, steak and chips is British English. In British English, "I can do [food]" almost always means "I am happy to make [food]".

In British English at least, it is rarer to say "I can do [food]" to mean "I would like to eat [food]", because "I can do [food]" might seem to carry an implied sense of entitlement, and risks coming across as rude/self-important, although in some cases this entitlement is entirely justified and then you may expect this usage; a vegetarian may say "I can do that" because they know the suggestion to be a meal/venue with vegetarian options. A spice-intolerant person may say "I can do the korma but not the vindaloo" because the spicier option would ruin their night and week, so they actually can't eat it.

"I could do [food]" is more common and more generally accepted as being polite for the meaning of, "I would like to eat [food]" ("could" is less demanding than "can", and the idiom "can do [food]" is already loaded with the "will cook [food]" meaning).

Of course in some parts of Britain, as in any country with diverse language varieties, you might see some local or social dialects preferring "I can do [food]" to mean "I would like [food]", but this seems to be the minority across the language. It's likely your test's intended meaning is "I can prepare steak and chips for us to eat", unless your test has tricked me by planting a British expression ("steak and chips") into what they intended to be an American English conversation.

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Be careful, there are a number of forms.

"I can do a casserole". - Steak and chips example, I can prepare... "I can knock up a casserole" - same meaning.

Not quite the same...

"I could do with a pizza". - means I would like a pizza very much. "I can do without this!" - means I do not like.

But also.....

"We could do steak and chips" - which can either mean we can make it...

or we can go somewhere as an "event" and obtain it.

Depending upon locality "I could do steak and chips" may be equivalent to "I could (really) go for a steak and chips."

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'Do' is a very flexible verb! In this case it means 'provide', probably by cooking the stated meal. It can mean 'visit' or 'experience' - 'This week we're in France, next week we do Italy'. It can mean to provide a service, the charlady Mrs Mopp in the vintage British radio show 'ITMA' would ask "Can I do you now, sir?" It can even be a euphemism for sexual intercourse!

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“Do” as a main verb is usually a substitute for some other main verb that should be clear from context. Since the discussion is about food, the most obvious verbs are “eat” and “make”.

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Do sounds very weird. I would say "have", "eat", or "order" if you plan to eat them.

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