on drinks or on their drinks

Rika_22

Member
Japanese
Hi, everyone.

I was wondering why it would be wrong/unnatural to say "spend money on their drinks."
For example,

The university students who live next to me are party animals. They party every Friday, and I hear they spend almost all their money on drinks.

However, why is it incorrect to say, "on their drinks?" They are the ones who drink!
 
  • Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    In the collocation spend money on + possessive + noun, the noun is usually the person/people or thing that benefits - not the purchase itself. For example:

    They spend a lot of money on their children. They're always buying clothes and presents for their kids.
    They spend lots of money on their house. They're always decorating and modernising it.

    Can you see now why spend almost all their money on their drinks is odd?
     

    Rika_22

    Member
    Japanese
    I see! It's odd because the drinks aren't the ones that benefit from the money spent!
    So that means, you add a possessive only when you refer to someone that benefits from the money spent?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    In the collocation spend money on + possessive + noun, the noun is usually the person/people or thing that benefits - not the purchase itself.
    So that means, you add a possessive only when you refer to someone that benefits from the money spent?
    You changed "person or thing" to "someone". That is incorrect.
    You also changed "usually" to always ("only"). That is incorrect.

    Think of it as the opposite: when the object is the thing purchased, don't add a possessive. He didn't buy his beer. He went to the store, found a beer (which was the store's beer, not his beer) and bought it.

    Afterwards, it was his beer. He bought it. He owned it. But afterwards, he didn't spend money on it.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    I hear they spend almost all their money on drinks.
    I hear they spend almost all their money on buying drinks.

    They don't spend money on doing anything else to drinks: drinking them, storing them, etc.
    They don't buy things to give to the drinks.
    They don't give money to the drinks.

    So "spend money on drinks" can only mean "spend money on buying drinks".
     

    Rika_22

    Member
    Japanese
    Hmm let me clarify what you mean…so the reason why you don’t say “on their drinks” is when they are in the store, the liquor still do not belong to them. Is that what you mean?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    We do say “on their drinks”. We don't say "spend money on their drinks".

    But yes, that is my meaning.

    Note:

    In AE, the word "drinks" means "servings of a beverage" in a bar or hotel: a place where someone creates the beverage and brings it to you. Usually you are served the beverage in a glass (in the US).

    We don't call things you buy in a store "drinks". We usually name the container (a bottle of ?; a can of ?; a six-pack of bottles of ?) or the specific beverage (some beer; a beer; a pepsi; some wine; some whiskey).
     

    Rika_22

    Member
    Japanese
    Thank you dojibear! That does make sense :)
    And thank you for the note, too! I didn’t know that and I’m glad to learn it.
     
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