I know we don't ask the waiter to get us a different order once it has been put on our table, but anyways if you changed your mind and the waiter brought your order and you want to say "can I get an orange juice instead?", will "change/exchange" be used?

Can you change this to an Orange juice?

Can you exchange this to an orange juice?

So should "change" or "exchange" be used?

  • 2
    It should be exchange this for in this sentence. But, that aside, either one can be used. May 22, 2019 at 7:31
  • So @Jason Bassford, should it be: "Can you please exchange this for an orange juice". May 22, 2019 at 9:18
  • Yes, that's right. You could also use replace this with. May 22, 2019 at 9:25
  • @Jason Bassford,what will be more likely :"can you replace this with an orange juice" or "can you exchange this for an orange juice"? May 22, 2019 at 10:23
  • 1
    Honestly, if I were at a restaurant, I'd say Can you get me an orange juice instead? or Can you make this an orange juice? (In short, you said it the most naturally in your question before bringing up the other words.) I don't know which of the specific phrases here I would prefer. May 22, 2019 at 11:13

3 Answers 3


To change means to transform. To exchange means to replace.

Therefore, if you ask:

Please change the orange juice into a steak.

you actually ask for the miracle / magic of the orange juice being transformed into a steak.

If you ask:

Please exchange the orange juice for a steak.

It actually means that you want him to take the orange juice back and bring you a steak instead.


It seems like you're mixing up two different idiomatic way of asking for a food order to be changed. "Change" means to alter something, while "exchange" means to swap, so they each have different uses.


  • We change something to something else.

  • We exchange something for something else.

Obviously, you cannot literally change one item of food or drink into something else - a burger cannot become a steak - but if you wanted to change an order that you had placed, but not yet received, it would be idiomatic to ask:

Can I change my order to an orange juice?

Your order was for something else, now that order will be changed. They won't keep the old order - an order is just your request written on a notepad - so it isn't an "exchange".

We would use the word "exchange" when asking for one thing to be swapped for another, so one situation would be if your food had arrived and you were not happy with it. If you wanted to ask them to take one item away and replace it with another, you might say:

I'm not happy with this burger - can it be exchanged for a hot dog?

An alternative situation where we might use the word "exchange" during the order stage is if we were asking for a substitution. For example, let's say you wanted the burger, and the menu says it comes with fries, but you want a different side. You might say:

I'd like the burger, but can I exchange the fries for a side salad?

  • Right, very simply put.
    – Lambie
    Aug 6, 2020 at 16:18

"Change" would be the correct word here.

If we look at the definition:

to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone

If we think of the orange juice as an item of you're order (kind of like a conceptual container around the physical item itself), what you're actually asking is for its content to be changed ("made different").

Also, consider the definition of "exchange":

the act of giving something to someone and them giving you something else

As you haven't yet paid for the item, it isn't technically yours to give. If you were asking for them to exchange it, it would sound as if you'd already paid for it, at which point the respective monetary values of the two items would need to be considered before it were deemed a fair exchange.

However, in a restaurant context, there is a general assumption that you will be able to pay for what you order, and therefore an underlying assumption that you are the owner of whatever you have ordered, so “exchange” would sound acceptable, though it has a bit of a different feel to “change”, for those reasons.

In my view, “change” would be much more common, and “exchange” may sound a bit too formal, as well as perhaps slightly confusing, given the way it compares to a context in which you have already purchased goods, e.g., clothes, where the word “exchange” would almost always be used.

  • 1
    On what basis do you assert that "the correct word is actually 'exchange'"? The OED' entry for change v. has as its definition no 1 (i.e., the oldest recorded meaning) " a. transitive. To substitute one thing for (another); to replace (something) with something else, esp. something which is newer or better; to give up (something) in order to replace it with something else. "
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 5, 2020 at 23:14
  • @ColinFine Yes, I actually reread my answer before seeing your comment, and it didn't sound right - I've now completely changed it - thanks!
    – Chris Mack
    Aug 6, 2020 at 12:16
  • 1
    Sorry, @Chris, I still don't think your answer captures it. You've gone from saying exchange is right and change is wrong, to the reverse. But to me, both are fine. In particular I think your argument for why exchange is wrong is specious. Legally the bottle may or may not be yours, but language doesn't generally care about legal niceties. If it's in your possession, you can give it.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 6, 2020 at 15:07
  • @ColinFine Thanks, I have added a further amendment.
    – Chris Mack
    Aug 6, 2020 at 16:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .