Is it common to hear fast food restaurant staff say "Do you want to eat in or take out?"?

If this usage is natural, I'm wondering whether "take out" can be used intransitively, i.e. without an object in this sense, in other contexts. For example, can I say "I'd like to take out tonight and enjoy my dinner at home."?

Also, I'd like to know whether "take out" can naturally take an object, as in "I'd like to take out a cheeseburger, please."

I'd appreciate your help.

  • 4
    I think you'd often be asked that question using variations along the lines of Do you want this [meal that you've ordered] "eat in" or "take out"? By which I mean that take out (more often takeaway in BrE) wouldn't normally be explicitly used as a verb in such contexts - it's usually either a plain noun (Let's get a take out tonight) or an adjectival noun adjunct (We had a takeaway curry). For your final context, I'd like a cheeseburger to go is more likely than to take out, but both usually come after the noun (cheeseburger) - more adjectival than verby. Jun 27, 2017 at 14:17
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    In my area the server would ask "Is this for here or to go?".
    – Rob K
    Jun 27, 2017 at 15:45
  • @RobK - That's how its often said where I am, too, especially when it's fast food like a burger or burrito. However, take out or carry out may be more prominent in restaurants where people often take the food home to eat, rather than eat it in the car (some place like this, e.g.)
    – J.R.
    Jun 27, 2017 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


These abbreviated phrases mean "eat [food] in [the restaurant]" and "take [food] out [of the restaurant]".

In AmE, we don't say "let's take out", in the way you have asked about. It isn't intransitive, and that wouldn't be idiomatic. Rather we say "Let's do take out" or "Let's have take out" or "Let's get take out".

When used transitively, it is usually in connection with some ethnic food.

Let's take out Chinese.

Let's take out Mexican.

although I suppose one could argue that take out is intransitive there and Chinese|Mexican are not direct objects but "cuisinal complements" :)

  • Are you saying the sentence "Do you want to eat in or take out?"" is idiomatic in AmE? If so, who is likely to say it, the cashier or a friend speaking to you in a restaurant?
    – Apollyon
    Jun 27, 2017 at 15:55
  • I wasn't saying that, but I will say that. Do you want to eat in or take out? is idiomatic in AmE, and the question could be posed by someone asking a friend about dinner options, or by an employee taking phone orders at a restaurant where it's possible to order the food in advance and eat there, or take the food out.
    – TimR
    Jun 27, 2017 at 15:57
  • But in your answer you say take out isn't intransitive, so I don't see how "Do you want [to] take out?" would be idiomatic. I also don't see how @Apollyon concluded that you mean just the opposite of what you explicitly say.
    – user3395
    Jun 27, 2017 at 17:21
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    @userr2684291: Your use of the verb "expand" suggests that you believe there are quasi-algebraic rules to be extrapolated from certain combinations. But that is a mistaken assumption. There are not. The question Eat in or take out? is an abbreviated choice. We do not say "Do you want to take out?" But we do say "Do you want to eat in?" eat is often intransitive; take in the sense of "fetch and transport" is not. Let's eat! , yes. Let's take!, no.
    – TimR
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:33
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    @userr2684291: eat in or take out? is a collocation operating by its own local rules. Native AmE speakers do not ask "Do you want to take out?". You might think they can. But they don't. We do not use the phrase take out as an intransitive verb except in combination with "eat in" when offering that choice. You can think of it as a someone reading from an order form with checkboxes: [ ] eat in [ ] take out.
    – TimR
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:46

Think of the terms as describing how the food is "packaged" or presented. "Eat-in" means it's served on plates for on-premises consumption. "Take-out" means it's put in containers so you can take it with you to another location to eat it (or have it delivered there).

Fast food restaurants are routinely designed to support a high volume of business where the food is eaten somewhere other than the establishment. In some cases, everything is packaged for take-out, but the establishment has some seating where people can still eat it there, from the take-out packaging. Other fast food restaurants will put the food on plates if you plan to eat it there.

At those restaurants, it is necessary to ask at the time the food is ordered as to which type of packaging the kitchen staff should use (wrap and bag it or put it on a plate). Eating-in may also have secondary implications, such as whether the wait staff will need to provide you with any service.

"Eat-in" and "take-out" are somewhat slang terms, and they are commonly used in different constructions and with variations in the precise terms.

Eat-in or take-out?
Do you want to eat in or take out?
Do you want that for here or to go?
Do you want to eat that here or get it to go?
Eat-in or to-go?

Regardless of the precise wording or sentence construction, it means the same thing.

Keep in mind that jobs at fast food restaurants are usually considered entry level jobs. They are not typically staffed based on a criterion of English proficiency or expertise. Even "native speaking" staff, often should have "native speaker" in quotes. "Ethnic" fast foods restaurants are often small businesses started by people for whom English is a second language. So the wording used should generally not be taken as defining or complying with any form of formal English rules or practice. Just be happy if you get what you ordered.

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