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I used to say check please, but my English teacher said that it's wrong, and the proper way is to say something like bill please.

What's the truth?

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Check and bill should be interchangeable. The important part is to a have fully qualified sentence, e.g. "Can I have the bill/cheque please" or "May I have the..." or "Could I have the..." –  Vincent McNabb Aug 15 '10 at 5:04
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"GIMME DA BILL!!" –  Claudiu Oct 28 '10 at 19:59
    
question should you ask for the check without asking the party you are with if there is anything else they may want also? Or is it rude to ask for the check just becuase you are finished with you meal and some of the other guest are still finishing they meal. I find it rude when the guys asks for the bill from the server and i may want to just sit and converse for awhile before letting the server assume we are ready to leave by asking for the check. –  user6341 Mar 21 '11 at 3:19
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In American English, in a restaurant context, "check" is more common than "bill"; if your server is across the room and you want to discreetly signal for the check (without shouting across the restaurant), you can make a ✔ (check mark) gesture in the air with your index finger. I can't guarantee it will be universally understood, but it has very wide acceptance in American restaurants, and even if it's not understood it won't be considered rude. –  MT_Head Jun 21 '11 at 23:22
    
Your English teacher was mistaken, at least with regard to American English. "Check" is the proper way to say it. Of course, if you ask for the bill, they'll know what you're talking about, so either way you should be fine. –  Kris Craig May 2 at 10:08

6 Answers 6

up vote 24 down vote accepted

The most polite ways are probably:

"May we have the bill/check, please?"

"Could we have the bill/check, please?"

"Could we get the bill/check, please?

This has the meaning... "Is it possible for you to give us the bill, as we're ready to leave and wish to pay"

Alternatively, when the server comes by and asks if you'd like anything else, a polite response would be:

"No thanks, just the bill, please"

"Excuse me, Bill/check please" is casual and perhaps fine in casual situations, but it's still a little curt. You can't go wrong with a full sentence question.

Note, in Canada, I've seen the word "bill" used most often.

Also note, in a Fancy restaurant, you will typically be asked if there is anything else. A simple, "No thanks, I think that's all for tonight" will tip the server to bring the bill. When paying, a credit card put in the envelope and left on the table will have the server silently take an bring back the completed bill.

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+1 for the last paragraph. –  ShreevatsaR Aug 15 '10 at 3:47
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I would say in "fancy" restaurants the custom is not to bring the bill until specifically asked, much to my frustration. –  Marcin Jun 22 '11 at 0:37
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If it's a familiar restaurant where they know me, I'll just put my debit card on the edge of the table. The server will then walk by, briefly show me the check, then grab the card and walk away; all without either of us having to say a word. That approach is much faster and more efficient, though it might lead to confusion if you're not one of the regulars. –  Kris Craig May 2 at 10:12
    
I don't know of anyone else who does it this way, though. All I can say is that it works for me really well. –  Kris Craig May 2 at 10:13

I think check is American, bill is British : both are fine, adding "Can I have" as Daniel says is certainly more polite. A common way to ask for the bill is to just make extended eye contact with the waiter, perhaps making a 'writing a cheque' guesture.

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+1 for extended eye contact, especially in a very busy restaurant or one where you are a frequent diner. If you have developed some rapport with the staff, merely catching their eye will elicit a silent "Check?" to which a nod and smile is all the response needed. –  John Satta Jan 7 '11 at 20:45

Two parts to your question. Each part has been accurately but separately answered elsewhere but here's the summary:

1. When asking for the bill/check in a restaurant, what's the polite way to phrase the question?

See Atomix's answer:

"May we have the bill/check, please?"

"Could we have the bill/check, please?"

"Could we get the bill/check, please?

2. Is there a politeness difference between bill and check?

As TRiG's answer says, there is none. But check is used chiefly in the USA and bill is used in the UK (and I think most other English speaking territories).

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"Can I have the bill, please."

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So, the word "check" can't be used as a synonym of "bill", right? –  kovpas Aug 14 '10 at 19:56
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Or to be more polite/precise, "MAY I have the bill, please" as 'can' specifies the ability to do something. Oh my, the teachers who corrected "Can I go to the bathroom" with "Yes, but you MAY not" –  Armstrongest Aug 15 '10 at 1:28
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@kovpas, In the US, one might pay a check with a bill. In the UK, one might pay a bill with a cheque. –  TRiG Jan 7 '11 at 19:45
    
@Armstrongest - I assume we always have permission to get our check so that we can pay, so the obstacle would be the server's ability to create it for us. Therefore 'can' is more proper. –  Oldcat Jan 11 at 1:16

The word check should not be used in this context outside the USA. In the USA, it's fine. There's no politeness difference between bill and check.

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I don't think anyone cares which word you use, as long as you're polite. I usually use the word "check".

Most servers interpret the "money" gesture (rub your index finger against your thumb) as "I'd like to pay now" and will not and bring the check.

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I think though in many situations rubbing your fingers together would be considered impolite. –  Armstrongest Aug 15 '10 at 1:30
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Possibly. It can also be used to hint at a bribe, but it's what I grew up seeing people in northern New Jersey do to ask for the check. –  Neil Fein Aug 15 '10 at 4:21
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Strange. I always thought the internationally-recognised sign for 'bring me the bill/check' was to hold one hand up as a pad of paper, and the other to indicate a pencil. –  Daniel Roseman Oct 12 '10 at 18:34
    
I've found that if the server is across the room and you're in a hurry at a fairly informal restaurant, a large checkmark shape drawn in the air with your finger works well (here in the US). –  Matthew Frederick Jan 8 '11 at 4:22
    
@Daniel Roseman: That has always been my experience, in all places I have been to. –  Marcin Jun 22 '11 at 0:39

protected by RegDwigнt May 24 '12 at 8:55

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