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Pedagogical materials commonly advise adding a determiner or quantity word to "do [the/one's/some] Ving." However, in the following passage, "doing grocery shopping" does not have a determiner in it. Is it an error? If it's idiomatic, how do we reconcile such examples with pedagogical materials?

The man said he bought the Big Wednesday ticket to pass the time when his wife was shopping last week. His wife was doing grocery shopping again when he returned to the counter and found out he had become a multi-millionaire.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/editors-picks/10472963/You-ve-just-won-20-million

In Michael Swan's Practical English Usage, he offers the following examples:

Could you do the shopping for me?

I hate doing the ironing.

If these sentences cannot have "the" left out, why does the first quoted example not have a determiner?

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  • It would be equally correct to write either doing grocery shopping or doing her grocery shopping. In the first instance, the her would be understood. Nov 26, 2022 at 8:45
  • @RonaldSole - she might have been doing grocery shopping for her husband and herself, and possibly family members too, so it might not be completely appropriate to call it 'her' grocery shopping. Nov 26, 2022 at 8:48
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    In Michael Swan's examples, the shopping means 'buying the supplies required by a household at a particular time' and the ironing 'ironing the creased garments from a particular load of washing'. The activities per se would be simply shopping and ironing. Nov 26, 2022 at 9:28
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    We don't know why the reporter left out the determiner. Maybe New Zealand usage is different. As Ronald says, the or her is 'understood'. Nov 26, 2022 at 9:41
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    @KateBunting - there is also an issue (maybe?) of sex-role stereotyping, if I can raise that here. Why should it be a default supposition that the wife does the grocery shopping? I do our grocery shopping - I have a sharp eye for a ripe avocado. Nov 26, 2022 at 10:12

2 Answers 2

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I don't see much wrong with saying "doing grocery shopping" without a determiner.

But as a native speaker I don't think I'd put it that way (though undoubtedly some do).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving out the doing and saying - ...his wife was still grocery shopping.

That would be my choice of words, especially if no obvious determiner were available..

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  • Thank you. Does "do shopping' sound okay to you? For example, "The man said he bought the Big Wednesday ticket to pass the time when his wife was shopping last week. His wife was doing shopping again when he returned to the counter and found out he had become a multi-millionaire."
    – Apollyon
    Nov 28, 2022 at 5:58
  • @Apollyon There isn't much wrong with it - and everyone knows what it means. But I think that most British people would say simply "...his wife was shopping again, when..." or "his wife was doing the shopping again, when..."
    – WS2
    Nov 28, 2022 at 8:49
  • Thank you. Learners who say "do shopping" can certainly get their idea across, but I'm wondering if it's as idiomatic as "do the shopping" or "do grocery shopping." If there is a difference in acceptability, even a small one, it's something worth our attention.
    – Apollyon
    Nov 28, 2022 at 9:07
  • It is difficult for anyone who learns a language in adulthood ever to be able to perfect their idioms in the way a native speaker can. I know this from a lifetime of trying to be a French speaker.
    – WS2
    Nov 28, 2022 at 17:17
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It is acceptable.

Pedacological materials emphasise this point because it is a rather illogical use of "the". It does mean "the shopping that is required to be done at this particular point in time", but it is not very obvious that "the" should be idiomatic in "I'm doing the shopping".

But when you don't mean "the required shopping", and especially here with an adjective to clarify what type of shopping we are talking about, the word "the" is not needed.

Another example examples:

I enjoy doing clothes shopping, much more than shopping for groceries.

In most cases where "doing shopping" is used, you could replace with the verb "shopping", and that would be my preferred paraphrase:

His wife was grocery shopping again when he returned to the counter

His wife was shopping for groceries again when he returned to the counter

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  • Thank you. Does "do shopping' sound okay to you? For example, "The man said he bought the Big Wednesday ticket to pass the time when his wife was shopping last week. His wife was doing shopping again when he returned to the counter and found out he had become a multi-millionaire."
    – Apollyon
    Nov 28, 2022 at 5:56
  • I'm eager to see if there's any difference between "do shopping" and "do grocery shopping" in acceptability.
    – Apollyon
    Nov 28, 2022 at 5:57

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