I found it in one of comments on What does "drink like a professional" mean in this context?

Drinking like a professional implies greater dedication than being someone who has the odd tipple, but the real boozers are those who can drink for England.

I understand the sentence except for the bold part. Is it an idiom or expression?

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    It means a world-class drinker; one who drinks so much he would be selected for the national drinking team, if there was such a thing. Commented May 6, 2013 at 23:35
  • @StoneyB Really?! We will know... :) Commented May 6, 2013 at 23:37
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    I believe this is common throughout the islands, with occasional and local variants drink/talk/whinge/sleep/&c for England/Scotland/Wales/Ireland. Commented May 7, 2013 at 0:41
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    @StoneyB you should merge those comments into an answer, because there won't be a more accurate one than that!
    – FakeDIY
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 9:24
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    @StoneyB haha well I'm not trying to race anybody and I generally feel that if somebody posts a comment that answers the question, they should have the opportunity to post the answer and reap the reputation reward.
    – Daniel
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


It means that if there were a drinking competition and England (a country known for its drinking) needed to select someone to compete in its national team, they would select that person.

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    Yes, but it's worth pointing out (as per this Wikipedia discussion) that it's a form used for many things: "could sleep for England"; "could whinge for England"; and so on. Not necessarily activities that the English in particular are known for. The same format occurs (somewhat less often) for Scotland, Wales, Ireland, but I've never come across "He could xxxxx for America". Commented May 8, 2013 at 20:25
  • I was surprised that some English language natives do not recognize the difference between prejudice and a tag against sex discrimination and prejudice. I think you can win the competition.. Drinking for England! :)) Do not take it as an offense.. I love humor and know you love it too. You are not prejudiced! ;) Commented May 8, 2013 at 22:59
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    @FumbleFingers Except in Olympic years, America does not have national teams in any of what are regarded as the 'major' team sports - baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Consequently, play for [the country] (which I take to be the idiom which gives rise to all the others) does not designate the peak of athletic achievement here. Our equivalent would be "he's a major league drinker" or "he's an NFL-/NBA-/NHL-class drinker". Commented May 8, 2013 at 23:34
  • @StoneyB: Well, we already had the basic idea long before national (sports) teams - 'Once more unto the breach' - is from the 'Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' speech of Shakespeare's Henry V, Act III, 1598. We don't cry for God so much these days though. Commented May 8, 2013 at 23:41
  • @StoneyB Seriously, combine thiat with your comments on the question and I think you could write a much more thorough answer. Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 20:43

"Can drink for England" means a world class drinker. Someone who could represent England in an international drinking competition (if one were ever held).


First of all I think, it has nothing to deal with drinking habits. To me it seems an idiom in which the writer is expressing a tendency of having it easily of [here] England.

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