Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

Depending on where you are in the world, certain words and expressions may be more common than others. For instance, here in North America, the fried potatoes that you typically get with a hamburger are called “fries,” but the same potato product would be referred to as “chips” in England. And what we’d call “chips” in North America, the folks in England will likely call “crisps” instead. It’s not that one term is any more “correct” than the other; it’s just a matter of vernacular and common usage.

And the same can be said when you go to a fast food restaurant and the cashier behind the counter would like to know whether you’ll be having your meal in the restaurant or if you’ll be taking it away to eat someplace else. Just as Brits and Americans may spell the same word differently, they may also use different words to indicate whether they’re eating there or taking it somewhere else.

Here in Vancouver, most fast food workers would ask if you would like your meal “for here or to go.” It’s a default saying and the “for here” always precedes the “to go” part of the question. When you travel to other parts of the world, though, different terms emerge.

Rather than asking if your meal is “for here,” they may ask if the order is “to stay” or if you will “eat in.” It can be jarring to native English speakers when they here such an inconsequential change. Similarly, instead of saying that the food is “to go,” people in London may say that it is “for take away” or “to takeaway.” It can be found as both one or two words.

You might also hear the term “take-out,” but that is more commonly used as a noun. For example, someone might say that they are ordering take-out or they “got some take-out” for dinner. The same can also be true for takeaway, as in “there’s a Chinese takeawawy down the street.” Carry out (or carryout) is more commonly used in Scotland.

As an aside, while it may be perfectly acceptable to order a “lunch box” in many parts of the world, it may not be as appropriate in Britain where “lunch box” is slang for a male genitalia. You don’t want to make that mistake. And then there’s all sorts of Australian slang that could be misinterpreted too, as well as regional slang in different parts of Canada, the United States, and beyond.

What do you say at your local McDonald’s? Do you have your Big Mac for here or to stay? To go or takeaway?