At the Restaurant: 7 English Phrases

Here are some useful phrases when you are visiting an English-speaking restaurant.

Note that some of these phrases or customs may be specific to North American English-speaking restaurants.

1. I’d like the ________, please.

The most basic of all restaurant phrases: “I’d like the [hamburger…salmon…steak], please.”.

This tells your waiter what you want from the menu.

“I’d” is short for “I would” and is polite.

2. I’d like to make a reservation for [three] people at [8 p.m.], please.

Not all restaurants take reservations, but for those that do, it is wise to call before your visit to reserve a table.

Give the number of people and the time you want to dine.

If there are any children in your group, it’s helpful to tell the restaurant this, so that they can make a note of it.

restaurant dining
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

3. What would you suggest?

If you can’t decide between two entrees at a restaurant, or you have no idea what to order from the menu, you may ask your server for a suggestion.

It is not impolite to choose something other than what the server suggests.

4. Excuse me, could you bring more ______, please?

It’s fine to ask for more water, beverage, bread/chips.

Some restaurants provide things like bread or tortilla chips free of charge; others will charge you for extra servings.

If you aren’t sure if there is a charge for an item, ask your server. (If something is free, the server will usually bring it to your table soon after you are seated, without you asking for it.)

5. Excuse me, I have a problem…

This is a way to begin explaining to your server that there is an issue with your food.

“My food is too cold,” “Could I get my steak cooked a bit more,” and “I order vegetables for my side dish, not fries,” are all examples of how to ask your waiter for help.

6. Check, please.

“Could we get the check, please?” and “We’ll take the check.” are other examples of how to ask for your bill.

Sometimes servers will bring it to you without asking, but it is not impolite to ask.

7. Do you take cards?

Meaning = Do you accept credit cards? If you have no other way to pay, it’s best to ask this before you sit down for your meal at the restaurant!

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Grammar Corner: Even vs. Even Though

It might seem like you could use “even” and “even though” in similar situations when you are speaking or writing in English…but you can’t!

Check out these sample sentences and try to determine how each are used, then continue reading this grammar-focused post to find out if you’re right.

“I don’t even know who she is!”
“I don’t have a car…I don’t even have a license.”

Even though I should stay home and study, I will go to my friend’s birthday party.”
“I will work this weekend, even though I really need a day off.”

Learn about even and even though.
Photo by Sarah Dietz on


“Even” is used to add emphasis, usually at the end of a story or with other information.

For example: “This woman kept talking to me at lunch today. She was sitting at the next table and was talking to me about her job. It was so strange. I don’t even know who she is!”

“Even” usually goes before the verb; in sentences with a linking verb, it goes after the linking verb.

In sentences using a form of “to be,” it goes after the verb: “She is even taller than her father.”

You can remove “even” from these sentences and they will still be grammatically correct.



“Even though” is used in the same way as the phrase “despite the fact” or the word “although.” (“Even though” is a bit stronger than “although” in this usage.)

It indicates that a situation will happen, regardless of (or despite) other factors. The situation that will happen is the part of the sentence that doesn’t begin with “even though.”

For example: In the sentence “Even though I should stay home and study, I will go to my friend’s birthday party,” the situation that will happen is “I will go to my friend’s party.” It means, “I should stay home and study, but I will go to my friend’s birthday party.”

Can you come up with more sentences to use “even” and “even though”?

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Idiom: “The Writing on the Wall”

The boss became increasingly frustrated with her employee’s laziness. Even though the employee was reprimanded, he ignored the writing on the wall and was soon fired.

Other ways you might hear or read this idiom:
*the handwriting on the wall  <-used as a noun phrase
*The (hand)writing is/was on the wall.  <– used as a complete sentence

So, if you heard or read any version of this idiom, what would you guess that it means?

Let’s think about it.

If you walked into a room to see sentences in big letter on one of the walls…it would be simple for you to read, right?

That gives you a big hint as to the meaning of this idiom. So take a guess! What does it mean?

Photo by Reafon Gates on

If you guessed:

  • something that is clearly going to happen
  • a premonition (meaning = a strong feeling) of something happening
  • something bad or unfortunate is going to happen

Then you guessed right!

Try and use this idiom in conversation this week! Questions or comments? Let me know!

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Moving: 6 American English Vocabulary Words

Teacher Amanda is back after a brief hiatus (hī-AY-tes, meaning a pause or gap)! The hiatus was because I moved, and that’s what inspired this blog post!

1. hire movers vs. rent a U-Haul

“Did you hire movers or get a U-Haul?”

When moving, you decide to either hire people (movers) to move your belongings for you with their truck, or rent a truck and move your belongings yourself, which is many times referred to as renting or getting a U-Haul.

“U-Haul” is simply a brand name of a popular company that rents moving trucks nationwide; there are many others.

Moving boxes and moving vocabulary
Photo by Mister Mister on

2. to pack and unpack

“I don’t mind packing, but unpacking boxes after moving is the worst!”

Probably the most self-explanatory words in this list: “To pack” and “to unpack” means putting your things into boxes and taking them out before and after a move.

Note that “unpack” officially stresses the first syllable – UN-pack – but it is not uncommon to hear the second syllable stressed.

3. apartment vs. condo

These are two types of places to live, and “condo” is short for “condominium.”

The difference between an apartment and a condo is generally ownership: apartments are rented and condos are usually owned. Both are generally located in buildings with other units.

4. mail forwarding

“I scheduled my mail forwarding to start on Friday, and I’m moving on Saturday.”

Telling the post office about your new address – or “mail forwarding” – is a phrase that may be slightly different in other English-speaking countries outside the U.S.

Mail forwarding: American English moving vocabulary
Photo by Abstrakt Xxcellence Studios on

5. utilities

“Water is included in the rental price of this apartment, but all other utilities are paid separately.”

A service such a water, electricity, gas, garbage pick-up, etc.

Home owners must pay all of these themselves.

Renters, however, may have to pay all, some, or none, depending on the landlord.

6. moving vs. relocating

Technically, moving to any new home is relocating…and relocating is moving, but they are used differently.

a) We’re moving next month!
b) We’re relocating next month!

Statement “a” is more general and implies “We are moving out of our current home and into a different home next month.”

How far they are moving isn’t indicated, although it likely is not extremely far from their current location.

Statement “b”, however, implies “We are moving out of our current home in this city/country and moving into a different area far away.”

Relocating” indicates the speaker is moving far – generally out of the state or even out of the country.

Note that it is perfectly fine to use “moving” for any type of move, even large distances: “I’m moving to Russia next month! I got a job teaching in Moscow!”

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Idiom: “Play It By Ear”

A: Do you want to go to a movie later? Maybe around 7 p.m.?
B: I have so many errands to run after work…I would like to go, though. Can we play it by ear?

If you’ve heard the idiom “play it by ear” (sometimes asked as a question or in the imperative: “Can we play it by ear?” or “Let’s play it by ear.”), you might be able to guess its meaning from the context of the conversation…but maybe not!

Either way, do you know what “play it by ear” refers to?

…here’s a hint:

English idiom "play it by ear"
Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on

The literal meaning of “play it by ear” refers to when a musician is able to play a song after hearing it, without needing any sheet music to help them.

In a way, the musician is able to improvise playing the song without the need of exact notes written out in front of them.

This directly relates to the idiom “play it by ear.” When someone asks or suggests that you “play it by ear,” they are saying:

“I don’t want to or I can’t make firm plans right now. I’ll determine closer to the event in question whether or not I am able to do it/attend.”

“Play it by ear” is a great informal way to:

1) Not commit to an event or situation that you want to attend, but are unsure if you are able to attend.

2) Not commit to an event or situation that you do not want to attend, but you don’t want to disappoint or offend the person you are speaking to by declining the invitation immediately.

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