Learning to speak English? Our Everyday Conversations help you practice. Click the audio link to hear a native speaker pronounce each word while you read. Key terms are explained, in your language, at the end of each conversation. Today’s conversation is about ordering food in a restaurant. 

Waiter: Hello, I’ll be your waiter today. Can I start you off with something to drink?

Ralph: Yes. I’ll have iced tea, please.

Anna: And I’ll have lemonade.

Waiter: OK. Are you ready to order, or do you need a few minutes?

Ralph: I think we’re ready. I’ll have the tomato soup to start, and the roast beef with mashed potatoes and peas.

Waiter: How do you want the beef — rare, medium or well done?

Ralph: Well done, please.

Anna: And I’ll just have the fish, with potatoes and a salad.

Language notes

  • Can I start you off with something to drink? Notice how the question starts with “Can.” Since this is a yes/no question, the intonation rises at the end.
  • And I’ll have lemonade. Notice how Anna stresses “I’ll” and “lemonade” to emphasize her choice.
  • Are you ready to order, or do you need a few minutes? The word “or” signals a choice here. Notice the rising intonation on “order,” and the falling intonation on “minutes” (the first choice is “Are you ready to order?” and the second choice is “Do you need a few minutes?”).
  • I’ll have the tomato soup to start, and the roast beef with mashed potatoes and peas. Notice that “tomato soup,” “roast beef,” “mashed potatoes” and “peas” are stressed because the food order is the important information here. Notice also that “tomato soup, “roast beef” and “mashed potatoes” are compound words. The stress falls on the second word in each phrase.
  • Well done, please. Notice that the subject and verb are omitted in the response; only the necessary information is given.
  • I’ll just have the fish. Anna says “just” here to mean that she does not want a starter.
Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help. And the U.S. Department of State has great resources for English teachers and students of all levels.