When I'm at a restaurant, I usually hear English native speakers saying:

Can I do a cheeseburger or Big Mac?”

Does ‘Can I do’ when ordering food at the restaurant, give the same meaning as:

“I would like to have....”,
“I wanna have....”, etc.

How is that do gives the same meaning as get or have?

Note: At least in the North America

  • 1
    I think you must be mishearing. This doesn't sound common, but I'll let the Yanks contribute an answer.
    – James K
    Jan 3, 2021 at 2:42
  • We do say; I think I'll do the burger. to mean: I'm ordering the burger.
    – Lambie
    Nov 7, 2022 at 17:45

9 Answers 9


People have already pointed out it's not common, but I'll just say that do is a very general verb that can be used in all kinds of situations, and it can stand in for other verbs. It's informal slang, but it is something people do. So it's possible you're hearing that kind of language use, and it's phrasing that other people aren't familiar with (yet?)

Some examples:

  • let's do lunch - eat lunch, get lunch together, meet up etc.
  • you do you - be yourself, follow your heart, whatever makes you happy
  • a do - a party, an event, some kind of special get-together that involves some effort
  • I could do with a drink - I need to drink something, a drink would be nice right now

some of these examples aren't a million miles away from can I do a cheeseburger in structure and meaning, so you might not be mishearing!


I have heard this usage occasionally (in urban Canada by native speakers). I even found an example online in a restaurant review, which ends with this sentence describing someone's opinion of a particular meal:

Overall, it was good but I'll do a burger or the pasta next time.

If I had to analyze it, the verb do is often used as a stand-in for an active verb that is obvious from context:

I'll do the dishes (means wash the dishes).

I'll do my makeup (means put on my makeup).

I'll do the bills (means pay the bills).

The actual definition of do being used here is "to treat or deal with in any way typically with the sense of preparation or with that of care or attention."

In this case, we have:

I'll do a cheeseburger (means order a cheeseburger).

The active verb to order is implied by the context that the speaker is a restaurant customer talking to the server. And this fits the definition, in that I am "dealing with the server's request for an order with care or attention."


Untrue. I’m in Canada and people often order food using “can I do a latte and chocolate croissant”, and I know this because it’s one of my biggest vernacular pet peeves!

Also often hear people use “do” for travel plans. Example “I wanna do Thailand and Vietnam next.”


I can attest to this usage being common in New Jersey and New York City, in the US. So common indeed, as I see it, over the last year or two at least, that I just heard used in the last few minutes at a cafe, and found it to be in line with my expectations. I expect to hear it on a near-daily basis.

I am not sure that we can come to any conclusions about changes in the meanings of the verb "to do," though I wonder. This appears to be an idiomatic use, which may already fit into the way we thought the verb worked. But maybe not. Clearly, "do" has taken on a broader, non-specific meaning here. It struck me as strange when I started to hear it.

People seem to sometimes use To Do in various contexts to indicate a process that can be described generally, or broadly, which is already known, but not requiring specificity to be completed (or perhaps where such specificity is not comfortable). Though they don't always choose this. This is described more precisely and clearly in a couple answers provided earlier.

For example, in an argument about a relationship:

"I can't do this."

"Don't do this."

In the context of Nike:

"Just do it!"


"Are we really doing this, right now?"

"I don't do stadiums."

"I would do a light hike."

Answers provided earlier also provide some very appropriate examples

  • Nike has its own context? :)
    – Joachim
    Nov 7, 2022 at 17:36
  • 1
    The implicit skepticism, as I see it, in your comment is opportune and welcome:). However, I guess Nike "just does" context! :) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Do_It
    – Storvig
    Nov 7, 2022 at 18:28
  • 1
    In the time since I posted the answer, two other people asked to "do" an order or part of an order at the same cafe. Eg. "I'll do almond milk."
    – Storvig
    Nov 7, 2022 at 18:35

Ordering food has changed rapidly in the past few years. I think it started at Chipotle. People just started pointing and saying "I'll do the white rice" and "I'll do the black beans" and "Ill do the tomatoes" etc. If you don't believe me, go to a Chipotle and listen. I would say 70% of the younger customers say "I'll do..." It is terribly rude, if you ask me, and there is no stopping this trend. It's the same at Subway shops now, too. "I'll do a 12 inch" "I'll do the wheat bread" Trust me, I have been annoyed by this for a long time. This is happening.

  • Hi Todd, this seems to be more of a complaint than an answer. We're not a forum, and we try to keep contributions on this network neutral/objective. Could you please edit out the subjective elements of your post? Welcome to ELL!
    – Joachim
    Dec 1, 2022 at 10:20

As @JamesK mentioned "I think you must be mishearing. This doesn't sound common".

I never heard somebody say "can I do" for ordering food.

Well I searched and found that it is proper, one of the meanings of "can" is:

  1. It is also used to ask or give permission for something. ( Informal Permission )

And there is an example sentence of:

Can I use your book, please? ( ask for permission )

So it's asking for permission.

So “can I do a cheeseburger or Big Mac" means probably that the place is a all-you-can-eat restaurant, and the person asks if he can go do some burger for himself.


Yes, @James K is right. There's no usage like that for ordering food. I think you've misheard some other phrase like:

"What can I do for you?"

But that's not what a customer speaks it's something that the waiter asks the customer. It usually means:

"How can I help you?",
"What order shall I take for you?", etc.

This is the only usage I've heard in a restaurant with "Can I do" in it.


In the UK, common phrases are "Do me a..." ("Please bring me a...") and "I could (really) do with..." ("I would really like to have..."). The latter phrase is usually said to your companion(s) on your way to the eating place, as you would not say this to the waiting staff unless you also happen to know them socially.

I have not heard "Can I do a..." or "Could I do a..." yet in the UK although if Brits ever take to the idiom, they would probably prefer the second variant, it being a bit more polite.


Some answers here say "I think you must be mishearing" and "People have already pointed out it's not common". These could not be further from the truth. In the mid-west of North America it seems to be the most common way of ordering food. The meaning of "do" is obviously "I would like to have", or "may I please order the club sandwich", etc.

Agreeing with others: "it’s one of my biggest vernacular pet peeves!" and "I have been annoyed by this for a long time." How in the world is it possible that a common vernacular expression used by almost everyone could at the same time be annoying? And yet.

An interpretation of "do" is that it's similar to the words "thing" or "stuff". Those are generic nouns referring to anything, without specifying the exact thing. Similarly, "do" is now ...apparently... used as a generic verb, which fills in for any other verbs. It might mean "order", or "have", or "eat".

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