2. How to order a meal



… is the first key verb you need to master for using Spanish in food related situations, because…


¿Qué quieres?

… is the most common greeting from a waiter who, unlike Paquito, won’t ask about your day.

Pronunciación y traducción

  • pronounced: ¿Kay keyer-es?
  • translation: What do you want?



Pronunciación y traducción

  • pronounced: keyer-oh
  • translation: I want…

… is the standard response, if it’s just you. But if you’re speaking for your entire dinner / lunch party, you’ll say…




Take a minute to learn how to conjugate the verb, in case you need to speak on behalf of someone.

Haz click para ver presente

querer present tense

querer present tense conjugation

Watch out

¡Presta atención!

Pay attention to the change in spelling because that’s what makes…



… and most of the verbs you need to know in Spanish, irregular.


¡Información importante!


Think of the formal you (“usted“; “ustedes“) as adding “sir” or “madam” to the end of a sentence. As a foreigner you can avoid ever using this form, unless meeting the family of your significant other, or trying to get on the good side of an authority figure(s). Meanwhile, “Ellos” is for groups of males or mixed groups; “ellas” for females only.

But don’t worry too much about subject pronouns. “It” for all intents and purposes doesn’t exist. The rest of the subject pronouns are optional because the information is contained within the verb. In fact, in Spanish, “yo, tú, él, ella, usted, nosotros”, etc. are usually only spoken when signaling your son, wife, friend, or daughter, across the table. Or for a point of emphasis, like in English, when we put “do” before the verb:

“But mom! I DO want the bread.”

“¡Pero mamá! YO quiero el pan”.


Momento de reflexión. A moment to reflect and let all of this process. Mark the word “querer” as a favorite. There is no grammar point for this half of the lesson. Practice the conjugation of the present tense until you can close your eyes and repeat it before moving onto another important irregular verb…


We look at it more in depth here so no need to worry about another conjugation yet. But for ordering in a restaurant, this phrase is essential:


cuando puedas

Pronunciación y traducción

  • pronounced: coo-án-do pooed-ahs.
  • translation: when you get a chance / whenever you can

Ejemplos en español

  • “Más pan cuando puedas.”
  • “La cuenta cuando puedas.”
  • “Otra botella de vino cuando pueda.” (you [formal]).

en inglés

  • “More bread when you get a chance.”
  • “The check when you get a chance.”
  • “Another bottle of wine when you get a chance.” (you [formal]).



Buena noticia.  The good news is that the present tense conjugation of “querer” with the above phrase is all you’ll need for ordering from a menu, as long as you don’t want to get into suggestions


You will, however, hear:



… in the conditional form.


querer present conditional


¡Atención, peligro!

¡Ten cuidado y no te tropieces!

Be careful & don’t trip up.

What makes this tense difficult for many English speakers is the double “-rr” as in:

and “chistorra


To produce the “-erre” sound, you have to roll your tongue.

Failure to pronounce the word correctly changes the tense to what’s called the past imperfect.


** explanation for past continuous inclusion coming soon

** explanation for past continuous inclusion coming soon

Not an actual mistake in this case, but meaning one thing and saying another, might lead to confusion at some point in a conversation, so probably best to stick to the present tense until you can roll an “-r” with ease.



Here are some tongue twisters to practice how to do the “erre“. Remember: the tongue is a muscle, like the bicep, calf and abdomen, so it needs to be exercised and stretched to accomplish certain feats (in this case sounds). As you read these phrases, remind yourself that is their purpose, not to make sense, nor to advocate the injury of donkeys or dogs.

Uno. El perro de San Roque no tiene rabo porque Ramón Ramírez se lo ha cortado.


Saint Roch’s dog doesn’t have a tail because Ramon Ramirez has cut if off.

Dos. Un burro comía berros y el perro se los robó, el burro lanzó un rebuzno, y el perro al barro cayó.


The donkey ate the watercress and the dog stole it from him, the donkey let out a bray and the dog fell into the mud

Tres. Estando Curro en un corro, con el Guerra y con Chicorro, dijo Curro: – Yo me escurro de este corro, con el Guerra y con Chicorro, en el carro de Socorro.


Curro was in a ring-around-the-rosey with Guerra and Chicorro, and Curro said: – I slipped out of this ring-around-the-rosey, with Guerra and Chicorro, into Socorro’s wagon)

Now back to:



… in the present tense together with these common verbs.


  • beber
  • almorzar, comer
  • cenar
  • picar


  • to drink
  • to have lunch, to eat
  • to dine, have dinner
  • to snack

¡Mira el consejo aquí!

You don’t need to worry about conjugating those verbs right now, just remember what they mean. Most of the time you will be using them in the infinitive with “querer” and other key verbs, whose conjugations you should focus on.



Anota estos dos puntos:

  1. In English, a waiter will say, “What do you all want to eat, to drink, to have for dinner?”
  2. In Spanish, the preposition, de or para (“for” in this case) often precedes the verbs listed above (and many others).


Ejemplos en español

  • ¿Qué quieres para beber?
  • Quiero cerveza de beber.
  • ¿Qué queréis para picar?
  • Queremos verduras de picar.


  • What do you want to drink?
  • I want beer to drink
  • What do you all want to snack on?
  • We want vegetables to snack on.

But the simultaneous use of para & de aren’t limited to verbs:

Lo mismo con...

  • de primero
    (for the starter),
  • para el primero
  • de segundo
    (for the second course).
  • para el segundo


¡Información importante!


De and para are almost interchangeable in this case, but not quite. It’s a lesson to itself which we haven’t written yet because it’s not vital. Just stick with:

… because you are never wrong.


[WpProQuiz 7]


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