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I was telling someone earlier that her sentence, "I will attend business dinner." needs to have an article before "business" so it should be "I will attend a business dinner."

She got upset and told me that her old English teacher told her that adding an article before "lunch" or "dinner" is incorrect.

I told her in this situation, she would need it but it was rather difficult to explain because I personally didn't know either. Could anyone help me simplify it for her? She's an ESL student and she is a bit stubborn and hates differing opinions. She doesn't like it when someone challenges anything she's learned in the past.

marked as duplicate by Kristina Lopez, Nigel J, tchrist Dec 13 '17 at 1:46

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  • You should see this and this, which explain the usages, but don't cite an authority. "A business lunch" returns about 430,000 results on google, if that's trustworthy. – Davo Dec 11 '17 at 22:01
  • having an adjective of "business" seems like it would negate the omission of the article. Also not putting an article gives a tone that the dinner is a regular occasion, which I'm betting it's not. If it's a family nightly dinner, usually you probably wouldn't put an article, "I'll attend dinner" or "I'll be at supper". – Mike Dec 11 '17 at 22:29
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It is very simple, and you are basically right. Let’s start with going out to lunch.

Imagine your boss says “I’m going out to lunch.” You would understand that s/he would be going to eat sandwiches in the park, or pop into a favourite eatery, alone or with a colleague or friend. An ordinary, informal lunch. As her/his personal assistant, you would make a mental note to get something to eat and be back by the time s/he returns.

If s/she told you s/he was going out to a business lunch, you would be taken aback. A business lunch is something formal and prearranged on the company time, with other parties involved. You are rather concerned that your boss has not involved you, her/his PA in the arrangements or had it in your diary. It will certainly take up a good two hours. “What business lunch?”, you might ask, with a hint of acerbity.

If, on the other hand, s/he says s/he is off to the business lunch, that use of the definite article can only indicate a business lunch you both already know about. Perhaps you have been reminding her/him for the past hour and a half and at last s/he has got on the move.

The use of the noun business as an adjective qualifying the noun lunch is common usage now. Many disapprove of this practice on stylistic grounds. as do I. But the practice is gaining ground irresistibly, and so must be accepted. Your example is at the most acceptable end: there is no sensible alternative. Language changes, and grammarians must recognise and adapt accordingly.

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