Whether you’re eating something light at a local café or experiencing the art of fine dining, these five French verbs can help you speak French in any restaurant situation.

  • Commander: When you want something to eat or drink, you have to order, which means commander in French. Commander is a regular –er verb so it’s very easy to conjugate. You usually conjugate it with the verb vouloir (to want) in its conditional form in order to make a polite request. You would say, for example, Je voudrais commander . . . , which means I would like to order . . .

  • Manger: The verb for to eat is manger in French. It’s a regular –er verb, except in the nous (we) form, when you have to leave the e before adding the -ons ending like so: nous mangeons (we eat/are eating).

  • Boire: If you want a little wine with your meal or another beverage, then you use the verb boire, which means to drink in French. Boire is an irregular verb, but with a little practice, you can conjugate it perfectly.

  • Prendre: Substituting the verb prendre (to have/to take) for manger and boire isn’t unusual in French. Just like in English, you can use prendre to order food or drinks, but it’s more commonly used in French. So the next time you’re enjoying an authentic French meal, the server may ask you Qu’est-ce que vous prenez (What are you having?)

  • Payer: When you finish your excellent meal, you have to pay the check with the verb payer (to pay). This verb actually has two conjugations in the present indicative and the present subjunctive. One is as a regular –er verb and a newer conjugation that is a stem-change verb, meaning that the letter y changes to an i in the present indicative and present subjunctive in all the forms but the nous and vous. To ask for the check, simply say l’adition, s’il vous plaît (the check please). In France, the tip is usually included when you pay the check. If you see le service est compris, it means that the tip is included.