Spanish Language Blog

Spanish Lesson Intermediate 22 How to order in a bar or restaurant Posted by on Sep 21, 2011 in Spanish Culture, Spanish Grammar, Spanish Vocabulary, Videos

¡Hola! ¿Cómo estáis?

Hoy vamos a ver cómo preguntar o pedir. We will see how to ask or order. We will compare how this is done in both Spanish and English in the context of a bar or restaurant. Ordering food and drink in a Spanish speaking environment is one of the first opportunities many students have to try out their Spanish and it is a great way to get stuck in and have fun with the language.

Be very careful never to translate literally from English to Spanish when you are asking or ordering as the typical phrases we use in Spanish are quite different to those used in English speaking environments. In English, for example, you might say “Can I have a coffee?”, but if you translated this literally and said ¿Puedo tomar un café?” in a Spanish bar or restaurant it would sound as if you were asking for permission to have a coffee. This is just one example, but there are many other instances where you can run into problems.

Let´s see what Spanish speakers say when we order in a bar or in a restaurant:

1. Sometimes we just say directly what it is that we want, followed by “por favor”. For example: “Una cerveza y un café con leche, por favor”. This is perfectly correct and it doesn´t sound rude at all. Sometimes, we don´t even say “por favor” and nobody gets offended by it.

2. You can also use imperative commands, again without any risk of sounding rude or abrupt. We usually use the verb “Poner” (to put) and say “Pónme…” (informal) / “Póngame…” (formal) (which literally mean “Put to me…”) or “Pónnos…” (informal) / “Pónganos…” (formal) (which mean “Put to us…”). You can also use the verb “Traer” (to bring) and say “Traeme…” (informal) / “Traigame…” (formal): (which mean “Bring to me…”) or “Traenos…” (informal) / “Traiganos…” (formal) (which mean “Bring to us…”)

You might have heard or used the verb “Dar” (to give) in the context of a shop when you wish to look at or buy something and say. However, this verb is not usually used in a bar or restaurant and you should avoid saying, for example: “Dame” or “Deme” (“Give to me…”).

3. You can use questions with the verbs “Poner” and “Traer”. For example: ¿Me pones una cocacola?, ¿Me pone una cocacola?, ¿Me traes un poco de pan? or ¿Me trae un poco de pan?

4. You can also add the verb “Poder” (can) to questions using “Poner” and “Traer”. For example: ¿Me puedes poner una cocacola?, ¿Me puede poner una cocacola?, ¿Me puedes traer un poco de pan? or ¿Me puede traer un poco de pan?

Don´t worry too much if you are not sure if you should use the Spanish informal or formal form of the verb as nobody will get offended if you use one or the other. As a general rule, if the person you are asking or ordering from is young, use the informal. If they are older and there is a less personal and friendly atmosphere you might want to use the formal.

I mentioned earlier that you should not use “Puedo…” (Can I…) when asking or ordering as it sounds like you are asking for permission. You should also avoid using “Me gustaría…” which means “I would like…” in English and is something that you would use a lot in an English speaking bar or restaurant. If you use this in Spanish it sounds like you are making wishes, thinking about hypothetical things that you would like to happen.

Other good tips for managing in a Spanish speaking bar or restaurant are:

1. If you want to get the attention of a member of staff, you can say: “Oye” (informal) or “Oiga” (formal) which more or less translates to “Listen” in English. Again you might think this sounds a little rude or abrupt, but it is absolutely normal in Spanish and you shouldn’t be afraid to use such phrases. You can also use “Perdona” (informal) or “Perdone” (formal) which means “Excuse me”.

2. When you want to pay, you have to say different things depending on whether you are in a bar, café or restaurant. In a bar or café, you should say: “¿Me cobras?” (informal) or “¿Me cobra?” (formal) which roughly means “Can you charge me”. However, in a restaurant you can say “¿Me traes la cuenta? (informal), ¿Me trae la cuenta? (formal) or simply “La cuenta, por favor” to ask for the bill/check.

There are not so many key phrases that you need to know in order to manage in a Spanish speaking bar or restaurant. Once you have used them a few times and got into the different ways that we ask and order in Spanish you will have great fun mixing with native Spanish speakers and they will really appreciate the effort you are making. As I said before, it is really important not to translate typical phrases you would usually use from English to Spanish as they will quite often sound inappropriate or incomprehensible in a Spanish environment.

Don’t be afraid to use phrases that sound strange in your own language, be confident and have fun practicing!

Hasta luego

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About the Author: Laura & Adam

Laura & Adam have been blogging and creating online Spanish courses for Transparent Language since 2010. Laura is from Bilbao in northern Spain and Adam is from Devon in the south of England. They lived together in Spain for over 10 years, where their 2 daughters were born, and now they live in Scotland. Both Laura & Adam qualified as foreign language teachers in 2004 and since have been teaching Spanish in Spain, the UK, and online.


  1. Sidra:

    very nice article, and i liked how you explained the reasoning behind not using certain words. I just came back from Peru; they mostly address the waiter as either “joven” for a young guy or “senor” for an older one.

  2. Lucy:

    Thanks for this – really really helpful and clearly explained 🙂

  3. Fred Bibee:

    My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome web site!

    • Laura:

      @Fred Bibee Hola Fred, many thanks for your comments, I am so pleased to hear that you are enjoying our posts. Regarding contributing, I would suggest following the contact details at the foot of the blog to contact the site administrators. Saludos, Laura

  4. ivetta:

    Dear Laura!
    But is there any difference between verbs Poner and Traer?

    • Laura:

      @ivetta Hola Ivetta,
      The verb Poner means ‘to put’ and the verb Traer means to bring. So they are distinct, but both very useful in this kind of scenario.
      I hope that clarifies things for you.