So what I’m trying to say is “I made a short stop to buy coffee”, but in a more colloquial way. Is it okay to say “I stopped by to buy coffee? Or Like what would the correct expression be?

  • Trip the circuit breaker.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2018 at 23:09
  • Turn someone into an Alex Rodriguez.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 29, 2018 at 23:24
  • @HotLicks - You're usually spot on, but I don't understand either of those comments.
    – Mazura
    Aug 2, 2018 at 0:29
  • A "short circuit" is a failure in electrical wiring causing an excessive current flow. The "circuit breaker" automatically "trips" to stop the short and prevent a fire or other damage. And "shortstop" is a position in American baseball. Alex Rodriguez is one of the better-known shortstops.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 2, 2018 at 0:34

6 Answers 6


The phrasal verb stop by is generally used to mean “to visit someone briefly.” It seems you want to use it to mean a “short visit.” I would advise the following: If you say where you’re stopping by (i.e. the coffee shop), then you can fulfill the word’s definition. In other words, saying “I stopped by the coffee shop to get some coffee” would correlate with the definition “to visit someone briefly.” Even though you aren’t visiting someone per se, you are visiting something (a coffee shop). The main definition is, after all, “to visit [someone or something] briefly.” Truthfully, you can put anything in the brackets; the main idea is “to visit briefly.”

Also, if you leave out where you stopped by, it becomes ambiguous: Where did you stop by to get coffee? At your neighbor’s house? At the store? Saying where you stopped by removes any ambiguity.

This may interest you as well...

  • 1
    This is not about visiting anyone, though. It's about stopping off to do something.
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:17
  • @Lambie As I explained in my answer, the main part is visiting briefly. In reality, you can briefly visit anything: a park, a zoo, a store, etc. You can stop by a coffee shop just as easily as you can stop by someone’s house.
    – user305707
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:21
  • I think "visiting briefly" is not good as an explanation here, imo. Yes, you can visit anything but here, I would not go for the word visit as a general thing.
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:27
  • @Lambie Take a look at this, if you please. google.com/amp/s/www.collinsdictionary.com/us/amp/english/…
    – user305707
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:29
  • Yes, it says at the hospital, doesn't it? If I were on my way to work and make a quick stop to buy coffee at a coffee place, I would not use: stop by. I would use: stop off. "Stopping by" makes me think of houses, homes, places of work, apartments, hospitals, to see a person, yes,:) And does not make me think of stopping off on my way to work at a restaurant or coffee shop to pick up coffee.
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:37

I made a quick stop on my way to work to buy coffee.

A quick stop is very used in American English.

We popped into [shop] to buy coffee. The Brits are always popping in and into places, for this meaning.

the idiom is: a quick stop, not a short stop.

You drop by a neighbor's house.

I'll stop off at the shops on my way home and get some wine. We're going to stop off in Denver for a couple of days before heading south.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • I stopped by [your house or office] to you see you but you were out.
  • I stopped off at the coffee shop to get coffee [on my way to work].
  • I stopped in [to see you] but you were out.
  • I stopped off to see you on my way home.
  • I stopped off to buy gas and snacks and then resumed my trip to New York.

Phrasal: I swung by the coffee shop to get coffee. I stopped off to get coffee.

  • 3
    "The Brits are always popping in and into places" :-) We pop out to the shops / to see a friend etc, as well.
    – user184130
    Jul 29, 2018 at 19:29
  • @JamesRandom :) Pop round, too. And I imagine pop up to another floor as well, in a tall building. Crikey, if I could only get myself sorted....
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2018 at 20:51

Alternatives are dropped in and dropped by as given by the Cambridge English dictionary. In British English both of these are more common than "stopped by". How common "dropped by" or "dropped in" are in American English I don't know.

  • drop by is very common in AmE, but here we do say make a quick stop [at a coffee shop].
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:10

In American English, we'll commonly use a borrowed term from car racing, i.e. "pit stop," to convey the brief stop you describe:

"pit stop" - noun

1 : a stop at the pits during an automobile race

2 a (1) : a stop (as during a trip) for fuel, food, or rest or for use of a restroom

Assuming the listener is familiar at all with car racing, he/she will understand the reference to a stop which is as brief as possible and focused only on fulfilling certain essential needs.

  • 1
    "Here is a treat to make our minor prehistoric pit stop a bit more enjoyable." – Bill and Ted (It took seven hours for someone to suggest pit stop ? I wonder if it's becoming archaic... and why someone would DV this)
    – Mazura
    Jul 30, 2018 at 0:52
  • A pit stop is used for car trips. Not stopping off to get coffee on the way to the office....
    – Lambie
    Jul 30, 2018 at 13:12
  • 1
    @Lambie, I've used the term in just about any context. E.g. friends at the office going out for lunch, as they walk out I'll say "I'll meet you in front, I need a quick pit stop" (as I head for the men's room).
    – JDM-GBG
    Jul 31, 2018 at 10:28
  • Well, not for stopping for coffee, then. For a rest room on the highway, for example.
    – Lambie
    Jul 31, 2018 at 12:07
  • 1
    @Lambie - It's an American thing. Which, if you are, and y'all don't use it like that, I'd love to know where. A pit stop can be for absolutely anything, just so long as you, at the very least, plan to reembark.
    – Mazura
    Aug 2, 2018 at 0:24

If you are looking for colloquial here in the Uk we would say

stopped for a coffee

I can't guarantee this is any way correct english, but it is what I would say.


The reason the sentence does not feel right is that (almost certainly) it contains a redundant word - buy. Furthermore, the unsettling presence of this word makes us doubt whether you had a drink of coffee on the premises, or were you perhaps buying some coffee beans for home consumption? "I made a short stop for a coffee", or "I dropped/popped in for a coffee", or other formulations are quicker to say, sound perfectly idiomatic, and convey without reasonable doubt that you stopped for a short time, paid for and enjoyed drinking a cup of coffee, and then went on your way without let or hindrance.

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