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Why English speakers don't GO DRINKING

Have a drink!

Native English speakers do drink alcohol, but rarely say "go drinking". Why? 

While it's grammatically correct to say, "have a drink", "have some beer", "go drinking", or "drink some alcohol", one of those is far better than the rest.

First of all, native speakers almost never say "alcohol", it sounds clinical. We just use the word "drink", but it can be used a few different ways: 

  1. I'm going to drink some beer. (Here, the word "drink" is used as a verb.)
  2. I'm going drinking. (Here, the word "drink" is used as a gerund.)
  3. I'm going to have a drink. (Here, the word "drink" is used as a countable noun.)

The third one, have a drink, is by far the most commonly used. We talk about our plans by saying, "I'm going to have a few drinks with my colleagues after work."  We invite people by asking, "would you like to have a drink sometime soon?"  

Alcohol is measured in standard drinks with one drink being about one can of medium-strength beer. Also, native speakers prefer to talk about alcohol in small amounts. Even if we do drink way too much, many people still prefer not to say so. Rather, they just say, "I had a few too many drinks last night!"

However, a lot of non-native speakers use the second style: "I'm going drinking;" or "I went drinking." The nuance is that you are trying to drink a lot of alcohol and that alcohol is the main point of your plans. Business people should not speak like this, even if it's true! 

The first style, as a simple verb, is used to emphasize the object—usually to answer a question or be specific. If asked, "what did you drink last night?" You could say, "I drank mostly beer and a couple glasses of red wine." In this case, native speakers often say, "I mostly had beer," rather than "I mostly drank beer."

Take a look at this graph to see just how popular it is to say have a drink.

Notice that the use of have a drink sky-rocketed through Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, when alcohol consumption was outlawed in the United States. We can also guess this language was used for alcohol because "a drink of..." would be used for any other liquid (a drink of water), but that phrase is placed quite low in the graph. In fact, the only one lower is "go drinking".

So don't "go drinking", but if you are old enough, you should invite your friends to have a drink.

clinical [adjective]—used for scientific or scientific-sounding English.
have a drink [phrase]—the phrase most commonly used by native speakers to "go drinking". 
standard drink [noun]—a normal amount of alcohol in one glass of beer, wine, or spirits.
Prohibition [noun]—a time in the United States of America when alcohol was not allowed to be drunk.