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Many times I hear people saying, "we want a treat" on the occasion of a person's birthday, for which they mean, "a birthday party".

I am concerned about the use of word "treat" in this context. Is this common with native English speakers or is it just another Indianism? Is it a colloquial usage of word "treat"?

  • "trick or treat"? Look up treat and see what you find. – Xanne Sep 30 '17 at 6:21
  • @Xanne it's "treat" and I am curious about its usage for the meaning of a "party". – threeA's Sep 30 '17 at 6:24
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    Oh, I see. Well, there are lots of kinds of treats--it's used much more broadly than a synonym for a party (meaning a social event), at least in AmE. – Xanne Sep 30 '17 at 6:27
  • If someone asked for a treat, it wouldn't normally be taken to be a request for a birthday party. It has more the sense of a personal gift for whoever is receiving the treat. – Lawrence Sep 30 '17 at 6:51
  • So "we want a treat" here means: "we want you to host a party", not "we want you to give us something nice (to eat or drink)"? – Stefan Sep 30 '17 at 7:12
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I think what you’re hearing is.

We wanna treat (We want to treat)

This means because it’s your birthday we want to buy dinner, or the movie, or whatever it is that they’re out doing.

to treat (treat someone to)

Provide someone with (food, drink, or entertainment) at one's own expense. ‘he treated her to a slap-up lunch’ Oxford Dictionaries

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For it to be immediately obvious that "we want a treat" should be taken to mean "we want you (to throw/organise/host) a birthday party" suggests a highly marked context, one in which the speakers have, among themselves, developed the (slightly unusual?) habit of referring to birthday parties thus. But it's not that hard to imagine in the context of a microlect constructed and maintained by a group of acquaintances. I've personally been part of tight social groups in which the word "treat" has had very particular meanings understood by all members. I won't tell you what they were!

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