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I'm Japanese and I live in US now. I can speak English a little.

Today I went to a cafe and I mistook taking someone's drink. (I already purchased, and it was same matcha). A staff realized that and she told me that I took wrong drink. And then she took it back from me.

When she gave it to the customer, I heard the staff said "someone steals yours". Maybe I couldn't catch exactly, but I heard the word "steal".

I know the correct sentence is someone *stole yours. But, I thought the staff was a non-native English speaker (maybe I'm wrong).

If the staff didn't say "steal", Do you have any possible sentence that instead of using steal?

In this case, is this expression suitable? Is that sarcasm? In Japanese, steal is 盗む. It's same meaning the word "rob". I felt she treated me like a robber. I think she could say it in a more polite way. If I were the staff, I would say "Another customer accidentally (mistook) taking your drink". (他のお客さんが、間違えてドリンクを取ってしまいました)

Some people might think you are a just more polite person. But, in Japan, If a staff say "someone steals yours" (誰かがあなたのを盗みました), I think it hurts a customer. (my side) Also rude.

If you are the staff, what will you say?

Maybe my sentence doesn't make sense (I'm beginner of learning English) but If you can understand what I want to ask, please give me comments.

  • Are you sure you heard steals? That seems highly unlikely in the present tense because English doesn’t use the present tense that way. It would perhaps be stole in the past tense. – tchrist Feb 2 '18 at 2:37
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    It's pretty hard to guess what was said or meant. I can imagine the counter person saying "Someone stole your drink" or something along those lines, without intending to imply evil on your part -- "stole", in this case, would just be a bit of casual hyperbole. Note that in the US "stealing a base" is a perfectly legitimate activity in baseball, and the metaphor is used in many other situations. – Hot Licks Feb 2 '18 at 2:37
  • Maybe I hard wrong. I thought she looked down on me. And I was depressednd. – Moeri Feb 2 '18 at 3:15
  • Just relax. A very small mistake had happened to you. But this is no reason to feel ashamed. Most likely the waitress sees it similar. in a new language it is often very difficult to interpret irony correctly. – BerndGit Mar 26 '18 at 14:26
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If the barista was a non-native speaker, they might have used *“He steal(s) yours” because they didn’t know a better word. But this expression is also used by native speakers.

“He stole your drink” sounds like a joke or exaggeration, probably to put the other customer at ease. In casual speech, some people use “steal” as a joking way of saying “take”, especially when said with a positive/light tone. It doesn’t imply any malice or wrongdoing like “theft” or “robbery”. For example:

[Alice and Bob are at a restaurant.]

Bob [buying a burger and fries]: “Do you want anything?”

Alice: “Nah. Mind if I just steal some of your fries?”

Bob: “Sure, no problem. I’ll get a large.”

(This is a playful way for Alice to ask Bob if he will share his fries instead of buying two orders.)

In the situation you describe, you could have made a similar joke, like “Oh! Sorry, I accidentally stole yours.” In that case, it would be a mild form of self-deprecating humour.

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    Thank you Jon. I understand. Now, I realize this is kind of cultural difference. In Japan, we can not talk customer cusual way. So, we don't say joke. – Moeri Feb 2 '18 at 3:54
  • If it happen again, I'll try to use that! – Moeri Feb 2 '18 at 3:54
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It's perfectly idiomatic if what she said was "someone stole yours". As tchrist says, the present tense would not be right here.

The verb "steal" is used all the time jokingly or in a mildly annoyed way to describe situations where someone accidentally walks off with something of yours, especially something of little value. It's also used with things that aren't really possessions, like parking spots.

I'm a native speaker and I would probably joke around with my friends saying that they "stole" something, usually with a tone mocking seriousness so that it's obvious I'm joking. What was the tone like when the staff said it? Given the circumstances, I can only imagine it was a joke.

This same thing can be seen in writing, notably memes:

He (baby) stole my spot (in bed)!

Grumpy cat: you stole my spot

Evil toddler: I just stole a meme. Your meme haha

(Click on any of the above images to be taken to its source.)

Now, all these memes are jokes. The first image probably illustrates how lightly we use "steal" best of all, since the mom whose spot was stolen isn't accusing her newborn of petty larceny, yet still she says that the baby stole her spot.


There are, of course, other ways to say it, but that's another question.

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If this was a busy, noisy place, then it's possible that you misheard what was said. This is more likely if the speaker's accent is different to what you are used to hearing, or they are speaking quickly, or their pronunciation is sloppy.

It would be extraordinarily thoughtless and impolite to say that a customer was stealing from someone else in a shop.

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