Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tell Me, What Would You Like To Drink?

Imagine you have walked into a bar or similar establishment. You may go directly to the bar/ counter or sit at a table. After the customary exchange of greetings, the person behind the bar/ counter or the table waiter will want to enquire about what you would like to have. In Spanish, he/ she is likely to say something like: "tell me, what shall I serve you?".

He/ she could choose to be less formal and say:
Dime, ¿qué te pongo?

Alternatively, he/ she could choose to be a little bit more formal and say:
Dígame, ¿qué le pongo?


In this situation, your reply may be influenced by the more/ less formal register used in the question. However, it should be stressed that the choice will be entirely yours.

In a situation such as this one, you only need to make a choice between a formal/ informal if your answer in Spanish includes an order/ request. If that is the case, before you choose your reply, you need to decide how you are going to 'deliver' it. You MUST choose between talking to the waiter in a manner which shows:
  • Less formality/ less need to be respectful or keep distances.
  • More formality/ that you want to be more respectful or keep distances

Your choice may be influenced by the level of formality in the original question. Quite often, you will choose an answer which matches the level in the original question. However, you don't have to do so.

Alternatively, you may choose an answer which does not include a request to the waiter. In that case, you will not have to make any decisions about the level of formality.

Once you have made those decisions, you are left with choosing what you want to order. Perhaps you want to order:
  • A beer

Here are some examples which deal with that choice of order:
  • Ponme una cerveza, por favor (give me a beer, please-informal request to the waiter).
  • Póngame una cerveza, por favor (give me a beer, please-more formal request to the waiter).
  • Quiero una cerveza, por favor (I want a bear, please)*.
*NB Please note that, strictly speaking, this answer would be more appropriate as an answer if the question was: ¿qué quieres?/ ¿qué quiere usted? (what do you want?).

Now you should practice answering the question:
Dime, ¿qué te pongo?

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