So I was wondering how we order food in English. Let’s say I want a tea, is this sentence okay? :

“Hi, I’d like a takeout tea please.”

Or do native speakers say it differently? (I want to sound like a native please)

Could you guys give me examples (something I may say at Starbucks, McDonald’s...)...

Thanks for your help!

  • 1
    A great deal depends on the context. What country are you in? What languages are native? Is there a line you have to wait in? (you can use your time in line to listen to others's responses) Are there special terms you have to use? (Starbucks uses its own words for adjectives like large, for instance) The best way to learn is to make mistakes and learn from them; you can't get rules in advance and expect them to work. – John Lawler Jun 22 at 20:21
  • I am from Canada. French is my first language, but we speak both English and French. I was wondering if people say “takeout” when the food they order is not meant to be eaten inside the restaurant. If so, do I say a “takeout coffee” or “a coffee to takeout”? Thank you very much :) – Nina Jun 22 at 20:26
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    In the US, we would order that coffee "to go," but I'm not sure if that's true across the border as well. That seems like just the kind of phrase that would be regionally specific. – Juhasz Jun 22 at 20:28
  • The lingo is still evolving a bit with COVID, but either "to go" or "for takeout" would work in most of the US. This is different from "for delivery" or "to be delivered". – Hot Licks Jun 22 at 20:30
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    Ah, yes, but with a traiteur (Dalloyau, Hédiard, or even a neighborhood charcutier-traiteur), you never refer to take-out, because it is simply assumed. You use à emporter, for example, when you go to a café-bar, and you want to run in and get a quick sandwich jambon-beurre to take with you. @JohnLawler, you and I have just left the boundaries of ELU far behind. I shouldn't have brought it up in the first place, but I was just joining in the fun with your reference to French. – Isabel Archer Jun 23 at 15:08

As with most things, it's complex and depends on context and you just don't say it the way you'd expect.

If you're asking for pizza at a pizza restaurant (we'll get to tea later), you say:

I'd like some pizza to go please.

'To go' is a modifier not exactly of the pizza itself but the order. 'To go' means to package it all up so it is easy to carry to my car, like in a bag, as opposed to a tray which is 'for here'

If you're calling on the phone, you say:

I'd like to place an order.

Is that pick up or delivery?

(which means are you going to go there and pick it up yourself, or do you want it delivered. Either way, it is the entire order that is considered 'takeout' (which is the preferred word over 'takeaway' in the US.

So when you get it home, and someone asks about the pizza in your hand, it might go:

Is that takeout or did you make it yourself?

It's takeout.

You could say 'takeout pizza' but more often than not, you'd just say 'takeout', similar to you might respond to "Is it a big pizza?" with just "It's big.". Though you definitely would not say order it using 'I want some takeout pizza' (pragmatically it seems weird), it is normal enough to hear something like "That pizza shop has takeout pizza.".

But now to 'takeout tea'.

And then there's cultural reality. In the US, if you're getting food from a place that allows takeout vs eating there, it is just not a place to get tea. You'd almost always want to be sitting anyway. I suppose you could order a tea instead of coffee at a McDonald's drive-thru, but then it is necessarily understood to be takeaway.

So to summarize, no, you do not say "Can I have some takeout tea??". Instead you'd say

"Can I have some tea to go?"

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  • Thank you very much! This has been very helpful to me! – Nina Jun 22 at 23:08
  • @Nina Just remember that, as JS29 points out American and British English are different am – BoldBen Jun 23 at 3:45

There are two separate questions here.

The first is whether it is better to ask for 'a takeout tea' or 'a tea to take out'. The answer is that for most ends and and purposes it doesn't really matter; either will be readily understood, and neither will sound strange. If one is in the mood for nitpicking, however, one may argue that a takeout tea is more apt if that is a distinct menu item, perhaps because it is prepared or priced differently from the tea that is to be consumed on the premises. On the other hand, a tea to take out makes it clearer that one is not speaking of some special kind of tea, i.e. that one wants to take away what is listed on the menu as 'tea', the very same item that others may order to consume on the premises.

The second question is whether it is better to say takeaway, takeout, or to go. Takeaway is standard in British English, takeout in North American English, but either term will probably be readily understood throughout the English-speaking world. To go, however, is a North American term that is likely to sound odd if used elsewhere; within the United States it is probably more widely used than to take out, although some people may perceive it as less formal.

All of the above terms are typically used when one is physically present at the restaurant. The term to pick up is used when ordering food over the phone, ahead of arriving at the restaurant, with the intention that it will be ready to be collected when one arrives.

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  • Thanks ever so much! – Nina Jun 22 at 23:08

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