When I said, "I had a little drink yesterday." I was corrected by a native speaker of English. She said that it doesn't sound natural, and suggested this sentence. "I had a little to drink." Then how about "I had some drink. or I had a little of drink."? I don't know why the first sentence is wrong. Is this wrong grammatically? Could anyone explain this, please?

  • 4
    You don't say whether you were drinking water, liquor, or something else. The word "drink" can be used in many ways. More importantly, the usage of the word drink can change a little bit, depending on the context and the wording.
    – J.R.
    Apr 17, 2015 at 9:29

3 Answers 3


It depends on what you are trying to say.

"I had a little drink" means you had one drink and it was little. "A" followed by a noun indicates one thing. "I had a little drink yesterday" is an unlikely thing to say because you probably did not have just one drink the entire day. If in context you were not talking about drinks in general but specifically about alcohol, it could be a valid sentence. Doctor: "Have you had any alcohol in the past month?" Patient: "Yes, I had a little drink yesterday." That is, I have had only one, little drink, and I drank that yesterday. Or if you were talking about some other specific drink. Like, "Have you tried out city's famous foobar-fruit juice?" "Oh yes, I had a little drink yesterday."

"I had a little to drink" means you may have had multiple drinks, but the total quantity was little. "I had a little to drink yesterday" would probably be used when discussing alcohol: Yes, I consumed some alcohol yesterday, but not a lot. It could be used of drinking fluids in general if there was some reason to discuss your total fluid intake. Like, if you were in the desert and running out of water, or you are on a diet that limits your fluid intake.

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    It could also make sense in context, even if the person did drink more than one individual drink, if one of them was notably small. Like, say: "This neat hipster coffee shop just opened - all their coffees are super concentrated, so they serve them in tiny glasses. I just popped down there and had a little drink yesterday." ;) Alcohol is definitely implied in some contexts by the word "drink", but it does still depend on the context.
    – neminem
    Apr 17, 2015 at 14:39
  • @neminem Yes, I was trying to say something similar with my reference to the foobar juice.
    – Jay
    Apr 17, 2015 at 17:02

"I had a little drink"

Has always been a euphemism for

"I drank until I could barely stand"

First popularised in the song "Show me the Way to go Home" written in 1925.

I see nothing wrong with the sentence in itself, merely in the connotation.

To avoid the possible confusion, you might be wiser to actually specify
"I went out for a couple of beers last night" or
"We all went out last night, but I only had one [drink]." or
"I went out last night but only drank lemonade." etc

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    I agree; there's nothing wrong with the sentence – but there's a good chance the sentence didn't answer the question. If I'm visiting a doctor, and I'm asked: "Have you been drinking a lot of fluids? How much water did you drink yesterday?" the answer is not, "I had a little drink," but, "I drank a little bit."
    – J.R.
    Apr 17, 2015 at 9:27
  • 2
    Yes, context is everything, I agree. Apr 17, 2015 at 9:28
  • After reading all, I think my undestanding of "have a drink" is wrong. I thought if I say "I had a drink", it means I had alcohol, nothing else. So like "I had some water.", I thought I could say, "I had some drink or a little drink. Apr 17, 2015 at 11:12
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    @tennisgirl - Absent any other context, I, too, would assume "I had a drink" means, "I consumed an alcoholic drink." But if you add a little context, the same words can mean something else. For example, (on a hot day): "You look pale – have you been drinking water?" Yes, I had a drink. (Or, you're at the breakfast table, while I'm standing at the fridge): "I'm getting myself some orange juice – do you want me to pour you some, too?" *No, I had a drink." I'd assume that last one means you've quenched your thirst – not that you started the day with an alcoholic drink.
    – J.R.
    Apr 17, 2015 at 13:41
  • @J.R. it took me some time to understand this. Adding a little, the meaning would change, I didn't realize that. This explanation solved my grammar problem here. Apr 18, 2015 at 1:02

It does sound awkward, I think because you could be saying "you had a small drink", as in a half-pint of beer or a small glass of wine. The phrase "little drink" is an adjective coupled with a noun, whereas the phrase "little to drink" is a determiner tied to a verb. In other words, "drink" is a noun and "to drink" is a verb.

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