I often ask the secretary at my school to make photocopies for my classes. Up until recently, I have been using the expression, “¿Puedo tener …. copias porfa?” I thought this was a perfectly reasonable thing to say as puedo means “can I” and tener means “have.” I also use this expression while eating out at restaurants. After MONTHS of this exchange, a coworker pulled me aside and said, “Puedo tener….no.” It is not an expression that makes sense in Spanish. My coworker recommended I use, “Quiero” which translates to “I want.” I’ve always avoided using “quiero” when ordering because it sounds a bit rude to my American ear, but here it is perfectly acceptable to say what you want directly without any formalities.
To help you avoid falling into the “puedo tener” trap, I have compiled a list of useful phrases for ordering in Spanish:
Quiero… “I want…”
Don’t be shy, get right to the point!
Quisiera… “I would like…”
¿Me puedes traer….? “Can you bring me…?”
¿Me podrías traer…? “Could you bring me…?”
Me pone… “Put me down for…”
Ok, for this one, I am not 100 percent sure of the exact translation. “Poner” means put and the “me” indicates the verb is reflexive (done to oneself), so the direct translation is something more like, “Put it on me.” However, handy dandy wordreference.com told me poner can be used when talking about writing on paper (like a server writing down an order, perhaps?), so I came to the conclusion, that “Put me down for…” is the closest translation.
…cuando puedas “…when you can”
While it’s not an expression for ordering, this phrase is useful and polite when you want something brought to the table mid-meal. “Otra cerveza cuando puedas…” “Another beer when you can.”
Just say the food you want!
If all else fails, just name the food and point to the menu. You got this!
And don’t forget! It never hurts to add a “gracias” or “por favor” in there.
Un abrazo súper fuerte,