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Does one need to use the article in this case?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

No. "To have dinner" is the idiom.

While "to have a dinner" is not ungrammatical, I have been struggling to concoct a circumstance in which I might say that, and it's hard. The only one I have been able to come up with is with a different meaning of the word "dinner", viz a formal event at which one eats (i.e. a banquet). Then we might say "Our society has a dinner every year on the occasion of ... ".

But I can't come up with a likely use with the ordinary meaning of "dinner".

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Are you saying that "to have dinner" is idiomatical and in normal cases "a dinner" should be used? – Louis Rhys Apr 11 '11 at 12:13
@Louis: no. "To have dinner" is the more common usage, and probably the one you want. "To have a dinner" means something different, and is less common. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 11 '11 at 12:28
agreed. "To have a dinner" implies a meal for a specific reason. Other examples might be, "we're having a dinner in his honour", or "we're having a birthday dinner for you", etc. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 11 '11 at 12:30
@Steve: thanks - you've crystallised my unclear thoughts about "have a dinner". – Colin Fine Apr 11 '11 at 14:55

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