Chinese Speaking Patterns: Ordering in a Restaurant

Chinese Speaking Patterns: Ordering in a Restaurant

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Ever eaten with your friends at a Chinese restaurant? Then you may have seen the waiters and waitresses speak Mandarin to their Chinese customers. Though it may sound foreign to you now, this lesson will teach you how to use common restaurant phrases in Chinese and make you seem like a natural Chinese speaker to your friends and guests.

Let’s begin our lesson by walking into the restaurant and approaching the counter with your party of five. In this situation you tell the person working at the counter:

请问,有没有五个人的桌子?Qǐng wèn, yǒu méi yǒu wǔ  ge rén de zhuōzi?

May I ask, do you have a table for five?  

Before we look at the whole phrase, let us break it down into smaller pieces and analyze the most important parts.

1: 请问 (Qǐng wèn) Before asking any question you should always say this first. It means “May I ask?” and it’s a polite way of asking anything.

2: 有没有(yǒu méi yǒu) means “to have or not” and by following the pattern “A有没有B” where A is the person you’re asking the question to and B is the object you’re asking for. This is a form of a yes or no question.

For example: 你有没有茶?(nǐ  yǒu méi yǒu chá ) means “Do you have tea?”.

Now as we continue on, your group is seated but unfortunately the waiter forgot to give out the menus! To remedy this we simply say:  

请问我可以看菜单吗? Qǐng wèn wǒ kěyǐ  kàn càidān ma?

May I look at the menu please?

3: 吗 (ma) is the question particle and by putting it at the end of the sentence you are turning the sentence from a statement into a question.

For example: 他是老师(tā  shì  lǎoshī ) means “He is a teacher,” while 他是老师吗?(tā  shì  lǎoshī ma) means “Is he a teacher?”

It is important to note that these patterns can be used anywhere due to their simplistic nature.

Looking at this sentence we can already see two patterns which we have already learned, 请问 and 吗. It is not unusual to see these as they can form the beginning and the end to most questions.

But we can use another way to ask a question as well. In stead of using 吗 at the end of a sentence“可以…吗”,we can also use positive negative form to ask a question:  

可不可以  (kě  bù  kěyǐ ), means “can or cannot.” Similar to 有没有both patterns can be used either as yes or no questions. We can use the pattern A可不可以B, where A is the subject of the question and B is any verb or action.

It is finally time to leave the restaurant. After eating the whole evening you are stuffed from the delicious food, you call the waiter over and ask him:


Qǐng jié  zhàng



Mǎi dān

Check please  

Unlike the other sentences we learned there is no pattern to learn here! This is just a simple phrase to end the night on. 请 (qǐng) means please.

Thank you for reading this article on ordering in a Chinese restaurant. These simple phrases will hopefully help you the next time you’re in your local Chinese restaurant, and want to show off to your friends or acquaintances that thought you only spoke English. Keep reading on the Hills Learning website for further articles on Chinese speaking patterns.    


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