This has puzzled me for a few years now. When preceded by 'a', shop becomes a noun. Does "do a shop" even make sense then? The correct phrase for me was always "go shopping", or similar.

Can anyone tell me where "do a shop" came from and whether it's grammatical?

Take the article in the following link, from an Irish broadsheet newspaper: 'I have seven children and my weekly shop includes 200 nappies and 20 litres of milk'.
The headline, which appears to be a quote (but is not contained in the actual article body) shows an example.

Take the following line from the article "it takes two trolleys to carry the weekly shopping". If we were to replace 'shopping' with 'shop', would it still make sense?

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    "I'm lovin' it!" Ain't language a bitch? People say things you don't want to hear, and then they have to nerve to say them in ways that you feel are annoying. "If only everyone had my fine sensibilities! Then we could give peace and literacy a chance."
    – user21497
    Sep 5, 2012 at 8:50
  • I've never heard "do a shop" before in my life. Is this BE or AE?
    – Kevin
    Sep 5, 2012 at 16:16
  • Do you have examples of where this is actually used?
    – Mitch
    Sep 5, 2012 at 16:37
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    @Kris: "We don't do colloquialisms"? I thought I was one of the most "restrictive" users here on ELU, but even I wouldn't go that far. I remind you, as Prof. Lawler does here constantly, that language is primarily a spoken phenomenon. To exclude questions relating to the spoken rather than written form would be a seriously retrograde move. Sep 5, 2012 at 20:39
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    For me, "do a shop" sounds very similar to "do a bank" or "do a cash convoy"...
    – SF.
    Sep 6, 2012 at 12:27

7 Answers 7


If you don't use this phrase, you may not know that it carries some precision. If I say that after I do X, I think I will have time to go shopping, you don't know if I just intend to randomly browse, get birthday presents, or buy the weekly groceries. If I say I think I will have time to shop, then the random browsing is excluded (among the people I talk to) by that phrasing. And if I say I have time to do a shop, it's marked as a sort of to-do list item of regular occurence, meaning the weekly "grocery shop" that has to be done at a regular rhythm. The reason we have three ways of saying the same thing is because they aren't precisely the same thing.


The OED’s definition 2e for shop is ‘An act of shopping for purchases’ and it is described as colloquial. The earliest citation in this sense is from 1960: You should find it possible to have one big ‘shop’ a week with a small mid-week ‘shop’ for perishables. Once we see shop used as a noun in this way, any grammatical difficulty over it following do disappears. It's fairly common in the UK, but shop is more likely to be preceded by an adjective such as big or weekly than not.

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    Yes, but I think that final rider isn't really necessary. I have an impecunious niece living nearby in Sussex, whose more affluent mother (my sister) lives 300 miles "up North". Several times a year the mother/sister visits us (chez moi, since I have space for guests). If they're both around and nothing else is planned one afternoon, the daughter/niece invariably says "Why don't we do a shop?". Although arguably that's a specialised usage that means something like "Let's walk around town looking in shops for things I want, that Mum can pay for". Sep 5, 2012 at 20:28
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    @FumbleFingers: In the face of such evidence I must defer. Sep 5, 2012 at 20:33
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    I certainly didn't mean what you said there was actually incorrect! Just that to do a shop can in fact stand on its own two feet without quote marks or adjectives. As it happens, my lodger (who usually does our shopping) went out this afternoon to get some milk, and he asked me if I wanted anything else. Neither of us can now remember his exact words, but we agree it's perfectly possible he could have said something like "I'm just going to get some milk. I'm not doing a shop, but do you want me to pick up anything else while I'm out?" Sep 5, 2012 at 20:50
  • Seems like a redundancy in your lodger's remark, but maybe one of those helpful ones that clarifies the message. I usually ignore new slang phrases and popular idioms that I think are unnecessary, like "at the end of the day", "it was a game changer". I leave them to the trendy and to the hacks. I believe in parsimonious prose with rich, exuberant, and succulent vocabulary.
    – user21497
    Sep 6, 2012 at 14:12

If the noun a shop is taken to mean the act of shopping then do a shop is the same grammatical construction as phrases like do a backflip. I don't know where it came from but it is certainly common idiomatic usage here in the UK. As @BarrieEngland states it is most often used with an adjective (big, weekly, etc.). It is generally premeditated grocery shopping - not just picking up a couple of things and certainly not shopping as a leisure activity.

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    Where is it "common idiomatic usage"? Do you have documentary evidence (OED? MW3? Encyc Brit?) of that, or is this just hearsay or is that people say it where you live? I've never heard or read it. My English-teacher friends (from all corners of the globe) here in Taiwan would be moaning about how stupid and common it sounds to them were it a common idiom anywhere in the world known to native anglophones except Wilmington and City of Industry (both Southern California factory towns).
    – user21497
    Sep 5, 2012 at 17:29
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    @Bill Franke: In the UK, "do the weekly shop" is perfectly normal phrasing - witness the fact that the first of those 306 written instances is actually a usage example from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. The tone of your comment seems to suggest you don't like people using such constructions - but I can assure you it's not in the least "stupid and common" to me or my four siblings, all of whom are degree-educated or better. Sep 5, 2012 at 20:16
  • "Do the weekly shop" sounds almost normal to me: I'd add /-ing/ to "shop" -- Americanism. So Neil's from the UK, as is the phrase. That's all I wanted to know. Thank you for this information. "It's common idiomatic usage where I live, which is [wherever]" is a good sentence to commit to fingertip memory banks. :-)
    – user21497
    Sep 6, 2012 at 0:08
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    @Bill Franke: Some US/UK differences tend to become fairly well-known (we're constantly being reminded about the differences with words like pissed, fag, rubber, mad, etc.). But I'm often surprised how many of these "syntactic" differences exist in the background - I guess because we can all understand what's meant, we don't bother to remember the relatively few occasions we hear what to us on our particular side of the Atlantic is "unusual" phrasing. Sep 6, 2012 at 13:32
  • @fu Notice that I said "sounds to them" and not "is". We often think that some other way of saying things sounds "stupid" or "strange" because it's different and not our way of saying it. "Knock me up at 8 a.m., Watson", Holmes said as he swept out of the room. Sounds silly to an American because it means "impregnate me at 8 a.m." in the American idiom. But then I often think that American idioms sound stupid and common too: some are artsyfartsy and some are precious and some are just gawdawful, like "My bad!" and "Duh!" I'm a critic.
    – user21497
    Sep 6, 2012 at 13:57

I think it has a different and specific meaning.

"Do a shop" or "Do the shop" is a specific task, eg. the weekly trip to the supermarket for the big grocery shop.

"Go shopping" is a more general, recreational, go out and look at the shops but with no specific aim.

It's the same way that "load" is a verb or a noun. Shop is the place you buy stuff, the process of buying it or now the stuff you buy.


Common in UK English; 'I'm just going out to do a shop' = the weekly groceries. But 'I'm going shopping' = clothes, gadgets, non-routine purchases etc.

In Scotland instead of 'do a shop' they might say 'get the messages.'


"Do the shop."

Usually means, "Do the weekly shop".

Grammatically, going for a shop, is like going for a walk. "Walk" can be either a noun or a verb - "to walk", "the walk".

When people say, "to go for a walk", what they mean is "to go walking" or to go on "the walk", or "the usual walk".

Do people stop to consider whether it is a noun or a verb before they say it? I don't think so. Is it understandable? Yes

Possibly it is an example of an ellipsis:

(grammar, rhetoric) 2. The omission of a grammatically required word or phrase that can be inferred.


"Do a shop" is no more or less "correct" than other slang, e.g., "Let's do lunch", "Let's take a meeting", and "Enhance your manhood by 3 inches instantly!" It's what people say. If they say it, and if other people understand what they mean, what on Earth does it matter?

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    -1 Doesn't answer the question. At least you admit it.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 5, 2012 at 14:58
  • @ΜετάEd: It answers 2/3rds of the question (it touches on the grammaticality issue, and the "does it even make sense?" question); it only lacks an answer on the origin part. Methinks you may have been too harsh.
    – J.R.
    Sep 5, 2012 at 15:45
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    @J.R. It is written explicitly as an opinion piece. It might make a great blog post but it is not a good fit for a Q&A. Answers should be factual/reasonable, not opinions, and supported by facts, references, or specific expertise.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 5, 2012 at 15:47
  • @ΜετάEd: It's got much opinion in it, to be sure, and it may not be as focused as the typical precision answers given by Barrie England, but I didn't mind the op-ed comments sprinkled into this answer. We'll just have to agree to disagree here, I suppose.
    – J.R.
    Sep 5, 2012 at 16:31
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    That's just the point: people don't understand what "do a shop" means.
    – Robusto
    Sep 5, 2012 at 17:38

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