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He took him for a ride. This is a phrase used to indicate cheating.

But I want to say to my child that I will take her for a ride in my car. How should I say this?

Can I say - "Let me take you for a ride in the car"?

Can I also say - "Let me take you for a ride"?

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In English, it's common for simple phrase to have more than one meaning. Usually, people can figure out which meaning applies by the context of your remarks.

For example, as you point out, the sentence, "I want to take you for a ride," could mean a few different things, depending on the situation. When a parent says it to a child, it could mean:

  • I want to carry you on my back (i.e., I want to give you a piggy-back ride).
  • I want to take you on a bike ride.
  • I want to take you for a ride in the car.
  • I want to take you out in the boat.

Often, the intended meaning is figured out easily enough by surrounding context:

  • I want to take you for a ride. Climb on my back.
  • Go get your bike helmet. I want to take you for a ride.
  • I want to take you for a ride. Let me find my car keys and we'll get out of here.
  • Put on your life jacket. I want to take you for a ride.

While it's true that the phrase could mean:

  • I want to swindle you.
  • I want to play a prank on you.

that seems highly unlikely. For one thing, when you want to "take someone for a ride" in that sense, you don't usually start by announcing your intentions.

A lot of idiomatic expressions are figurative, yet they have literal meanings as well. We can tell someone to "go jump in a lake" even when there is no water nearby. You can "have a blast" at work, and that usually means that you're having a good time, although in rare instances it might mean there was an explosion. Usually the intended meaning is pretty obvious, and, in cases where it isn't, any ambiguity can usually be cleared up with a simple follow-up question:

I want to take you for a ride.
Do you mean in the truck, or on our bikes?

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"Take somebody for a ride" still has got a meaning "to have fun riding" in a car. Nobody will think you mean "to cheat or even to kill" your child in this context. I think "let me" is too formal here. You'd better say, "Shall we go for a ride in my car?"

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  • I agree with your sentiments about "let me," but I think "shall we" is just as odd. I'd recommend: Let's go for a ride in the car. – J.R. Nov 24 '15 at 9:03
  • "Would you like to go for a ride in the car?" – V.V. Nov 24 '15 at 9:12
  • I might ask it that way if I'm giving the child a choice. If my mind is made up, though, I'm usually not going to ask a toddler what she wants; I'm simply going to say, "Let's go." – J.R. Nov 24 '15 at 9:36
  • Hmmm, maybe its a British thing, but "shall" sounds more formal, perhaps dated. I never use the word "shall" in daily conversation. Even before reading J.R.s comment, I thought of "Let's go for a ride" as the mist natural version. – Senjougahara Hitagi Nov 24 '15 at 12:35
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People often use the phrase "let me" when they are offering to do something for someone, for example, let me show you (The Free Dictionary).

In light of this definition, I think the OP's sentence as follows is grammatically correct:

Let me take you for a ride in my car.

As for the other sentence "Let me take you for a ride", you can also use it without mentioning "in the/my car", if your child already knows that the ride means the ride in your car. I know a ride may be on a bike, in a car, truck, train, or helicopter, but, more often than not, it means a ride in a car. According to Cambridge Dictionary, a ride also means a free journey in a car to a place where you want to go. Notwithstanding this explanation, I think it's better to say "a ride in a car" to make a clear sentence.

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In the UK, we say "Can I give you a lift?". I'm not sure if this is common outside of the US.

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  • Do you mean "outside of the UK"? – J.R. Nov 24 '15 at 18:37
  • This is probably the most natural sounding way of putting what the asker is trying to say. – Riley Francisco Nov 24 '15 at 20:35
  • @RileyF - I've always thought that giving someone a lift meant taking them somewhere they wanted to go, as in: Your car isn't running? I can give you a lift into work tomorrow. You can also give someone a ride to work, of course, but I picture "going for a ride" to be more carefree and maybe even without any particular destination in mind. – J.R. Nov 24 '15 at 21:41
  • You could always say "Do you want to go for a drive?" – Riley Francisco Nov 25 '15 at 0:22

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