Generally, we use no article before the name of meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). But there are many exceptions.
I had lunch with Olivia.
My husband cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast.
But there are many exceptions. For example, include an article (“a”, “an”, or “the”) or another determiner (this, that, some, my, your, etc.) when using an adjective before the name of a meal, introducing a compound noun, or mentioning a special occasion.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner. (Adjective before the name of a meal)
I’m on my lunch break. (Compound noun that contains the name of a meal)
We went to a dinner celebrating our last night in Spain. (Special occasion)
1. When to Omit the Article a/the
We do not normally add the article “a” or “the” before the name of a main meal.
I had breakfast with my family.
We had lunch together yesterday.
Rebecca had dinner with Peter last night.
Follow the same strategy with other verbs, such as “eat”, “prepare”, “make”, “cook”, “enjoy”, etc.
John is making breakfast for the kids.
My wife and I ate lunch at noon with our friends.
I came back early to prepare dinner.
We often use the expressions “for breakfast”, “for lunch”, and “for dinner”.
I prepared pasta for lunch.
What’s for dinner?
You can use a possessive pronoun (my, your, etc.) or another determiner (this, some, most, etc.) to identify or quantify the meal.
I always start my breakfast with an orange juice.
This lunch is fantastic!
2. When to Use an Article
Before the name of a meal, we place an article (“a”, “an”, or “the”) or another determiner (my, your, this, that, some, etc.) in these situations:
- When the name of a meal is preceded by an adjective (e.g., “We had a delicious breakfast.”)
- When using a compound noun that includes the name of the meal (e.g., “We’re on our lunch break.”)
- To mention a special occasion (e.g., “We organized a dinner in honor of our daughter.”)
- To highlight the food that we ate during the meal (e.g., “The room was not great, but the breakfast was delicious.”)
My wife prepared a simple and healthy lunch with salmon and potatoes. (Adjective before the name of a meal)
We enjoyed a romantic dinner in Paris. (Adjective before the name of a meal)
I usually take my lunch hour between noon and 01:30 p.m. (Compound noun that contains the name of a meal)
We need a great dinner idea. (Compound noun that contains the name of a meal)
All the family turned up for our aunt's birthday dinner. (Special occasion)
We held a benefit dinner to raise money for the foundation. (Special occasion)
Omit the article, however, to talk about meals in a general sense.
Formal dinners are usually meant for a significant number of people.
My girlfriend loves romantic dinners.
3. Have a Snack or Have Snack
We commonly use the indefinite article “a” or another determiner (“the”, “this”, “my”, “your”, etc.) before the word snack (a small amount of food that is typically eaten between meals).
I’d like to have a snack before dinner.
We could stop for a snack.
We had a huge lunch, so we'll only need a snack for dinner.
Does my snack need to be healthy?