thank you for a lovely dinner

Discussion in 'English Only' started by nikkieli, Mar 19, 2008.

  1. nikkieli Senior Member

    Bulgaria
    Bulgaria, Bulgarian
    Hi,
    In two independent English texbooks I find this:
    "Thank you for a lovely dinner."
    With or without context it is quite clear that this is said at the end of the dinner in question and that both the speaker and the listener have in mind one and the same dinner. In my opnion, "the" should perlace the indefinite article, but this is just a logical deduction of mine.
    Please, clarify,
    Thank you
     
  2. Meeracat Senior Member

    In fact "Thank you for a lovely dinner" and "Thank you for the lovely dinner" are both polite expressions that would serve equally well. Perhaps the subtle difference might be that using "the" might refer more to the food aspect, while "a" would refer more to the whole, social event. Personally I would opt for "a".
     
  3. nikkieli Senior Member

    Bulgaria
    Bulgaria, Bulgarian
    Thank you, Meeracat,
    Could I interpret "Thank you for a lovely dinner." to mean "Thank you for one really lovely dinner."?
     
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'd say it has more the flavour of:

    "That was a lovely dinner - thank you".
     
  5. Meeracat Senior Member

    No, that would not be correct. "Thank you for a lovely dinner" is a normal, polite way of ending an evening where dinner was served. You would say it even if it was a horrible dinner, but it refers to the event. But it refers to the social event not to a particular number of meals.
     
  6. nikkieli Senior Member

    Bulgaria
    Bulgaria, Bulgarian
    Thank you, Meeracat, when I put 'one' in bold I wasn't referring to the number of the meals. I did that on the grounds of the fact that 'a' owes its origin to 'one'.
    And still, natives are natives!
     
  7. Meeracat Senior Member

    a is a, one means it isn't two or three. . . Though you might say, for example; "could I please have a piece of cake" or "could I please have just one piece of cake". The second infers an intention not to have a second. The first leaves your options open. My advice is to always keep your options open for an extra piece of cake.
     
  8. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Probably because I'm overly picky, I would say "Thank you for a lovely evening." and, if warranted or perhaps if I have my fingers crossed, I might add "the dinner was delicious."
     
  9. Meeracat Senior Member

    To sdgraham
    Not overpicky at all. A beautifully worded solution to the challenge of dining out.
     
  10. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    I agree with sdgraham. In old-fashioned manners, it was thought a little impolite to say "thank you for dinner", because it suggested that eating at another's expense was the real reason you came. "Thank you for a lovely evening" or "thank you for the wonderful time we had" would, under that view, be considered better.
     
  11. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    I think there's another fine point to make.

    If you're leaving and speaking to the hostess (or host) who actually cooked the meal, I think it would be very bad manners not to mention that the dinner was lovely.

    I know if it were me and I cooked an entire meal for someone, they darn well better mention that it was both lovely and delicious. :)

    In my opinion, either article would work, nikkieli.

    In this particular instance I've presented in my post here, I would prefer:

    "Thank you for the lovely dinner. It was delicious."

    AngelEyes
     
  12. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    It would then seem that a serious misunderstanding would be possible, because there are many people who were taught that no matter how delicious the dinner, it is never polite to say "thank you for dinner", and that what one should express appreciation for is the enjoyment of the host's company rather than the products of the host's kitchen.
     
  13. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    A side note: I believe that sdgraham is referring to a convention among children that if you say an untruth with your fingers crossed, it doesn't count as a lie. I don't know how widespread this is. Thus, if the dinner wasn't very good, and sdgraham wants to be polite but not be guilty of lying, he crosses his fingers and says it was delicious.

    Edit: I see that that this post has a slightly different understanding of the convention, but the effect is the same. The above is my childhood understanding. Only sdgraham can tell us which was on his mind.
     
  14. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Wow, GreenWhiteBlue,

    I didn't post that just to be contrary. I really meant it. It's my experience here in Michigan that you always compliment your hostess on her culinary skills.

    I would even go a step further. It's extremely welcomed when you like someone's cooking so much, you ask for their recipe.

    Unless it's a formal gathering by a bunch of snotty, uptight people...this is not behavior that would be met with sneers and raised noses.

    That compliment - "Thank you for that delicious dinner. You're a wonderful cook." would happily be accepted here in midwest Michigan.

    The only time I would consider controlling my apparently "bad form" would be if I didn't know the hostess hardly at all and it was such a big party there wouldn't be much opportunity to have such an intimate exchange.

    You and I don't live that far apart. It's amazing that our outlooks are so dissimilar!

    And one more thing: if I slaved over a hot stove for a couple of days cooking my uh, head off, I'd be very depressed if no one said anything about the dinner itself. :mad:

    AngelEyes
     
  15. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Sorry, it was a tongue-in-cheek comment referring to polite conversation where we sometimes tell little untruths in order not to offend somebody. In other words, a dinner or portion thereof might have been truly awful (or something we personally 'don't like) but we say "it was delicious" out of consideration for the host or hostess even though it might have been a superhuman effort to choke down something.

    Cagey has accurately pegged it.
     
  16. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Following up Loob's idea, I think the implication of thank you for a lovely dinner is
    - There are lots of dinners in the world.
    - Some of them are lovely, some of them are not.
    - The one you gave us was lovely.
    - Thank you for arranging that this one was a lovely one (one of the lovely ones).
     
  17. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    I admire and agree with this explanation of why "a lovely dinner" seems more gracious (to me).
     
  18. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    Yes. For my part, if someone I had entertained at dinner at my house said "thank you for a lovely evening, I had a wonderful time", I would consider that person polite and well-bred. It would not occur to me to be be upset or offended because that person had not complimented my cooking, no matter how long I had worked on the meal, nor would I dismiss her as snotty and uptight because she indicated that the main reason she came to my house was not for a free feed, but for my company and conversation. Instead, I would think more highly of her for that very reason.
     
  19. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Maybe I would judge which article to use based on the level of familiarity with my host/hostess.

    The indefinite a could mean anything. It's exactly that: indefinite as to what you're really trying to say. Also, in my mind, it goes to the inner reason for my choice of which word I'd use in the first place. Thank you for a lovely dinner. is one step removed from intimate for me.

    It could also be based on nothing more than well-bred manners to say the accepted form of a congenial good-bye. It's vague but highly socially acceptable.

    It could also indicate that I feel like I'm in more sophisticated surroundings and that indefinite article lifts my responses a bit symbolically using language. What I mean is: maybe I really did love the meal, but I still want to retain a level of formality.

    I'd use the definite article under these circumstances:
    1. I would want to leave no questions in my host/hostess' mind that the particular dinner served to me that night was delicious. Not just any dinner was good. They're dinner was scrumptious. I might even switch from the to the more personal pronoun your.
    2. It was held at the home of a very good friend. And the meal was great. And I loved my friend and wanted to make him/her happy. And the compliment was heartfelt and sincere.
    3. I'd want to make a definite statement with no doubt in my mind.

    GWB: in light of your response, I'd have to admit that even if Emeril himself prepared your dinner, my stomach would be churning in such dreaded anticipation of giving an incorrect farewell, I wouldn't be able to eat much of anything. My appetite would have left long before I did. :)


    AngelEyes
     
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In the course of any normal dinner event in my experience, there are ample opportunities for compliments on the dinner itself at the time.
    At the end of the evening, it is thanks for the evening as a whole. It would seem strange, to me, to end a convivial evening by saying thanks for the dinner - as if that had been the only aspect of the evening I enjoyed.
     
  21. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Panj,

    What if you were sitting at the opposite end of the table all night? What if you didn't know the hostess well at all and there were so many people and so much activity that you didn't have the opportunity to say anything of a personal nature at all until you were standing at her door?

    Boy...I'm not cooking for any of you boys. I like my compliments right up to the very end of the night. :)

    My point is, there are legitimate circumstances where this would not be wrong, in my opinion.

    Apparently, I'm an embarrassing heathen.

    AngelEyes
     
  22. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Inconceivable.
    Think of that scenario for a moment.
    There is no possibility whatever in that situation that the hostess actually cooked the meal. Indeed, she probably doesn't even know where the kitchen is :)
    So I haven't spoken to this woman all night and I have to say something to her on the way out the door? Once again, it won't be the dinner I'll be complimenting first. I may get round to it, though by the sound of it I'll have about ten seconds of her time and none of her attention so it matters little.
    I'm only guessing, of course, because I have never been to such an event.
     
  23. AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Okay, Panj. Have it your way.

    AngelEyes
     
  24. Broccolicious Senior Member

    Glorious Devonshire
    English - England
    Wowser!! Such different views of manners!!

    I have to agree with AngelEyes, I'm afraid. Plus, what was more likely to be mentioned in the invitation? Are you invited to spend the evening enjoying somebody's company, or are you invited for dinner? Would you respond to "Would you like to join me for dinner?" with an offended "Is this JUST about the food?!"

    I think the nuance could be this: we can say that we're going to 'a dinner', in the same way as 'a party' or 'a tea-party'. So somebody thanking the hostess (or host!) for 'a lovely dinner' isn't necessarily referring to the food, but to the event as a whole.

    ANY thanks or sincerely-meant compliment should always be received in the spirit in which it was given. Let's not forget that this part of the forum is for discussion of correct language use, not etiquette!
     
  25. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I think the difference is one of social style and convention in different parts of the world - not directly relevant to this bit of WordReference.
     

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