How to Order Food in English: What to Say and When to Say It
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
Ordering food is one of the most essential skills in any language. Whether you are on a business trip, on vacation, or starting a new life in a new country, at some point, you will probably find yourself at a restaurant, airport, pub, store, market, or café. What do you say if you want something to eat or drink at one of these places?--How do you order food in English?
More importantly, what is the most polite way to request something, and what is more commonly said in a casual dining situation? That's what this article is for. Keep reading to learn the most common ways to order food in English, including how to order for other people, how to ask for appetizers, and how to ask to take your uneaten food home.
Next time you order something in English, try using one of these phrases. And remember: It never hurts to say "Please."
1. "May I have...?" (polite, formal)
"May I have the chicken Caesar salad, please?"
"May I have the lobster bisque and the seafood platter?"
While this phrase is most common in fancy sit-down restaurants, you can use it in almost any situation where you want to be a little more polite.
2. "I'd like..." / "I would like..." (neutral)
"I'd like a 7-Up, please."
"I would like a side order of fries."
This and the following three options work in almost any dining situation. You can feel confident using them and getting what you want without worrying about your level of politeness.
3. "Could I have...?" / "Could I get...?" (neutral)
"Could I get another iced tea, please?"
"Could I have two junior cheeseburgers?"
This and "I would like" are two of the most common ways to order food in English. They are neutral, and you don't have to worry about offending the person you are speaking to.
4. "Can I have...?" / "Can I get...?" (neutral/casual)
"Can I have some red wine, please?"
"Can I get a bowl of fruit?"
"Can I...?" is a bit less formal than "Could I...?", but it is still common in most dining situations. If you're worried about your level of politeness, just add "please."
5. "I'll have..." / "I'll take..." / "I'll get..." / "I'll try..." (neutral/casual)
"I'll have a falafel pita, please."
"I'll take the steak, please."
"I'll get a hot dog and fries."
"I'll try the mac and cheese."
As I mentioned above, it never hurts to use "please" to make your request sound a little more polite and considerate of the person who is taking your order. These four phrases are most common in sit-down restaurants after you have had some time to think about what you want to order.
6. "I'll go with..." / "Let's go with..." / "I've decided to go with..." (casual)
"Let's go with combo number three, and a glass of apple juice to drink."
"I've decided to go with the chicken souvlaki."
"I'll go with the schnitzel with mushroom sauce, please."
Tone is always important, so you can use this in many places, but it is most commonly used in casual sit-down restaurants and pubs.
7. "Gimme..." / "Give me..." (casual/familiar)
"Gimme two scoops of chocolate, please." (ice cream)
"Give me 20 spicy chicken wings, and a large order of fries. Thanks."
Be careful when using "Give me" (pronounced "gimme" in casual speech). It's similar to saying "I want" and should be reserved for people you know or feel comfortable with. It's always important to "read the room" when you are anywhere, so if you notice that your server is open and friendly, and you're in a jovial mood as well, you might feel comfortable using this. As always, tone is important.
8. "(The) __________, please." / "(The) __________ sound(s) good."
"Two hot dogs and a two Pepsi's, please."
"The mozzarella burger sounds good. Let's go with that. Thanks."
If you want to be efficient because you're at a large dinner party and just want to get your food, you can just say the name of the item you want to order. This is also common in fast food restaurants where the server has to take a lot of orders. Sometimes, your server might even prefer this direct ordering method. And at other times, both you and the person taking your order might not be having a good day, and this might be all you can manage to say. Sometimes, that's perfectly fine.
Ordering for others
If you would like to order something for your friend, your partner, or your children, you can use one of the following phrases:
"I'll have the classic fish and chips, and my wife/husband will have the 12-ounce New York steak." (Ordering for yourself and your husband or wife.)
"She'll have the chicken fingers, and he'll have the pepperoni pizza." (Ordering for kids from a kids menu.)
"We'll just share a veggie platter. Could we get two small plates as well, please?" (This is the only thing we are ordering, and we want to share it.)
If you would like to order something small to start, either for yourself or to share with other people at your table, you can feel confident using these phrases:
"We'll take the calamari to start."
"I'll start with a house salad, please."
"Let's start with garlic bread."
"Can we get an order of nachos for the table?" ("For the table" means you are ordering the item for everyone who is with you, and not just for yourself.)
Taking food home
Sometimes, you're unable to finish your entire meal, and you want to take your leftovers home. "Leftovers" are the remains of a meal--the portion you did not eat, or "left" on your plate. If you would like to take your leftovers home, you can use one of these phrases:
"Can we get this to go, please?"
"Could we have two takeout containers?"
Server: "Can I pack that up for you?"
Customer: "Yes, please."
"We'll take the rest for home."
Well, that's it. Which of these phrases have you used? Were any of them new for you? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, thanks for reading. If you enjoy my work and want to continue improving your English, or you just want to support what I do, you can purchase a copy of one of my books in digital or physical format. All of my books are written with English learners in mind, and they are full of practical language you will actually use. Thank you for studying with me.
Enjoy your meal!