In a cafeteria, there is a sign which presumably means something like, "There are a limited number of seats, so please don't sit down with just one person to a table; plan your seating arrangements so that everyone can have a seat." I don't recognize most of the characters, but I managed to use a handwriting program to feed them into Google Translate, and I still don't really know what it is supposed to mean.

The actual text is as follows:



In particular, I can't figure out what the function of "畢" is.

There was no punctuation in the original. I don't know if the division into two lines is supposed to indicate a division into two sentences or not. As my paraphrase of the Google Translate shows, I can't even translate this phrase very precisely.

I suppose it can all be considered one sentence, but the "sentence" distinction doesn't really work as it does in English. In English, the "sentence" is a very important distinction; each complete thought is supposed to have a complete sentence. In Chinese, each paragraph seems to be one thought.

I know that 限請 is 'please don't' and '請隨手' means 'please make an effort, even though we can't specify in advance what measures you will need to take.'

用餐 might be "when you are eating" or it might be the adjective "dining" in "dining table."

I guess 座位有限 is "limited seating" or "a limited number of seats."

Can someone provide a grammatical explanation of how these vocabulary words go together?


  • 4
    That's not 曅, but 畢 in 完畢 (finish, complete). So 用餐畢 here means "When you finish your meal". Grammatically, 用餐畢 or 用餐完畢 is predicate(用) + object(餐) + complement(畢/完畢). BTW, it's easy to identify that character in simplified Chinese, 完毕(完畢) -- and 曅 is a character which is very rarely used today.
    – Stan
    Dec 5, 2013 at 8:04
  • These are two different instructions. The first one is telling you to clean up the mess after finishing your meal. The second one is asking you not to hog the table due to the limited seats.
    – 杨以轩
    Dec 5, 2013 at 8:10
  • 4
    The correct parsing is 用餐曅/請隨手整理桌面 座位有限/請勿休憩佔用 (you made a typo there, it should be 佔用, meaning occupy, not 估用. 估 means estimate). They literally mean After the meal, please clean the table and Seats are limited, please don't occupy (the seats) just to rest yourself
    – user58955
    Dec 5, 2013 at 8:35
  • 曅(毕) isn't that rarely used, is it? 毕业, 完毕, 毕竟, 毕生, etc.
    – user58955
    Dec 5, 2013 at 8:38
  • 2
    @user58955 曅 and 畢 are different. You should zoom in to see it clearly.
    – Stan
    Dec 5, 2013 at 9:51

1 Answer 1


This is probably easier with some punctuations:

用餐畢, 請隨手整理桌面。

座位有限, 請勿休憩佔用。

Let's break it down:

用餐畢: 用餐 means 'to dine' or literally 'to use meal'; 畢, short for 完畢, means 'to finish, to complete' (intransitive sense only); so altogether - 'after your meal'.

請隨手整理桌面: 請 - 'please'; 隨手 means 'while at it, while doing it' or literally 'to follow hand'; 整理 - 'to arrange, to put in order', in this case 'to tidy up'; 桌面 - 'tabletop' ; so altogether - 'please readily tidy up the table'

座位有限: 座位 - 'seat'; 有限, means 'having a limit, limited' ; altogether - limited seating

請勿休憩佔用: 請 - 'please'; 勿 - 'don't, not' ; 休憩 - 'to rest' ; 佔用 - 'to occupy'; altogether - please don't rest (here) and occupy (the seats)

The whole thing can be translated as:

Please tidy up the table after your meal; limited seating, so please don't rest here and/or occupy the seats.

Personally I'd have used 清理 instead of 整理, as 清理 implies cleaning and taking your mess with you whereas 整理 usually means to put things in order. It just sounds a little unidiomatic. Maybe it's more idiomatic in Taiwan (I assume this is where you saw the phrase from)?

  • 1
    I do not think that 有限 is short for 有限制 here... If X is short for Y, then it should be fine to replace X with Y and the sentence should still make sense... I don't think it is correct to say 座位有限制 in this case. 有限制 sounds more like with restrictions, so 座位有限制 would be understood as seating is restricted (sounds like you can only sit on certain seats but not the others), this is different from 'there is only a small number of seats'
    – user58955
    Dec 6, 2013 at 7:12
  • Thank you - yes, this is the standardized inscription on each table in a certain cafeteria in Taiwan. I will go back and try to find how I mis-copied the stray character; then I will try to write it out again and make sure I understand the grammar.
    – Rick
    Dec 6, 2013 at 9:02
  • @user58955 Agreed.. maybe 限额 is more like it? Though in this case, it's not the expanded form; it just explains what 限 means here. Dec 9, 2013 at 0:53

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