The vocabulary flashcard website "Memrise" has in one of its Chinese menu learning modules as entry:

Word: 可以来...
Definition: please bring... (food or dish)

But one of the comments says:

I thought this might mean something
like "bring me a plate" in English. But I
can't find any reference to this
phrase. I think it might just mean
"can come".

So is this a mistake that should not be in something purporting to teach Chinese? Is the commenter right or wrong? If this is the wrong way to say it, is there a right way?

  • 4
    Hmm, to me, it's not an usual way to order dishes. Commonly we just simply say like " 个家常豆腐" or " 个干煸四季豆". However, it is also natural to use "可以来..." for 1) asking a friend if some food is OK to him, or 2) asking the waiter for additional service. For example, 1) "可以来个麻辣豆腐吗?" (in this case you worry 麻辣豆腐 would be too spicy for your friend so you ask for his opinion); 2) "可以来点茶水吗?" (in this case, you ask the waiter for a pot of tea that is possibly free).
    – Stan
    Jan 14, 2014 at 15:19
  • I forgot to include the fact that Google Translate handles it poorly as a second hint that it might not be good. (But obviously not evidence.) Jan 14, 2014 at 15:29
  • 1
    "Could/Can(可以) I have...?" is the most accurate translation. English speakers don't normally say "please bring" when making orders. means 让不受约束、干扰地满足[需要]
    – 杨以轩
    Jan 15, 2014 at 3:29

3 Answers 3


It is a euphemistic way to say so, as it would seem more polite.

We would use subjunctive mood/subjonctif to translate this expression, as "Could I have..." or "Puis-je avoir...". Note that this is always in the form of a question, so please do not forget to add "...吗?" in the end.

  • I think it's excessively euphemistic, I doubt if a native speaker would use this phrase to order dishes.
    – Stan
    Jan 15, 2014 at 1:51
  • @Stan Generally only girls say so...Personally I prefer "有……吗?", as a male. Jan 18, 2014 at 5:23

I would translate 可以来... as "I'll accept..." It is less emphatic or positive than "Please bring me..." but is an understated way of saying "I wouldn't mind if your brought me..."


"可以来" is only used only you want to be very polite and or in a formal occasion.

And the sentence start with "可以来" must be finish with "吗?", otherwise the whole clause will not make any sense.

For example: "可以来 one burger 吗?" or "我可以来 one burger 吗?"

Literally, it is translated in English as "May I ( ask you to ) bring ( me ) a burger?"

"我可以" equals "May I", "来" equeals "bring".

In real life, people do not talk like that, just like you never say "May I ask you to bring me a burger?", you usually just say "a burger please".

So In real life, chinese people just say "来个汉堡", omit that "可以".

  • Well we would actually say "Could I have a burger please" or "I'd like a burger please'. Just saying "a burger please" is a bit too blunt for many English speakers. Jan 15, 2014 at 3:49
  • 1
    You are right regarding 'a burger please' is blunt. At least for myself, I will never use '可以' in chinese, it is just wierd, but i will add '谢谢' afterwards to make it more politely.
    – chenyi1976
    Jan 20, 2014 at 0:46

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