What’s the appropriate way to state someone’s gone out and is having lunch? Should we say “On Lunch” or “At Lunch”?
We want to know which form or preferable and if any of them is incorrect. Also, we want to know if there are differences in meaning we should consider.
Both forms, “On Lunch” and “At Lunch” are correct, as long as they’re used to convey the proper meaning. “On Lunch” indicates a status: the subject is “on lunch break”, for example. “At Lunch” indicates location, i.e. that the subject is out at a different place, having lunch.
Take a look at some examples below:
- Chiara is on lunch break right now.
- Chiara is on lunch right now.
- Chiara is at lunch right now.
All the sentences in the examples are correct. The first sentence presents Chiara’s full status: she’s “On Lunch” break.
In professional environments, where people regularly take breaks for several reasons, the fact that Chiara is in a break can be implied. In that case, the second sentence, which includes “On Lunch”, works well because it makes sense in the context.
The last sentence isn’t connected to the status idea of being on a break. It’s about Chiara’s location and, in that instance, “At Lunch” is grammatically correct and can be used.
“On Lunch” is considered acceptable whenever it describes someone’s status. It means, for example, that instead of being on the clock, the individual is on break. In that scenario, to say “On Lunch” is grammatically correct and makes sense.
Take a look at the examples:
- Can you wait for Sarah? She’s on lunch right now.
- I’ll be on my lunch break soon. Do you need anything?
- We should go to that new restaurant on our lunch break.
- I need to go grab something in my car on lunch break.
- Lucas is on lunch, that’s probably why you can’t find him.
- I can meet with you tomorrow when I go on my lunch break.
Out of the context of a lunch break, it’s very difficult to use the phrase “On Lunch”. If you prefer to play on the safe side, always keep “At Lunch” as your go-to phrase.
“At Lunch” indicates a subject’s location. It doesn’t matter if they’re on break or what’s their overall status. To say “At Lunch” lets us know that they’re physically at the place where they’re having lunch.
Take a look at some examples:
- I’m sorry, but John’s at lunch and there’s no way for me to reach him until he gets back
- Roberto’s at lunch, but he’ll be back in about 15 minutes.
- I’m at lunch with Bruno. Can I call you back later?
- I’m here, but Maria isn’t at lunch yet.
- I’ll join you at lunch in a few minutes. Please, go ahead.
- Hank suggested that we talked about your promotion tomorrow, at lunch.
To use the phrase “At Lunch,” you don’t need to indicate the address or the specific location where the subject is having lunch. It suffices to indicate that they are at a different location or any location, “At Lunch”.
Which one of those forms is used more often, “On Lunch” or “At Lunch”? Take a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below.
As we expected, “At Lunch” appears much more often than “On Lunch”. After all, “On Lunch” is a very specific expression that only works in a work or study environment.
Unless the subject is in a context where people take breaks that may be called lunch breaks, this phrase makes no sense.
On the other hand, “At Lunch” has broader meaning and usage, because it can refer to any lunch, anywhere, as long as you’re referring to a location in your sentence.
“At Lunch” and “On Lunch” are both grammatically correct. Use “On Lunch” when referring to someone’s status and the idea that they’re on a lunch break. Use “At Lunch” every time you’re talking about someone’s location or the fact that this person is physically away for lunch.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.