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I asked this question because once I said to my daughter "would you like to eat out?" and then she replied "I want to eat in". Noone taught her "eat in", she just deduced it because "in" is opposite of "out". I didn't know what "eat in" means.

Most people know what "to eat out" mean

To eat out: is to dine at a restaurant rather than at home.

We like to eat out on Fridays.

However, some dictionaries say

To eat in: is to dine at home.

Let's eat in tonight.

other dictionaries say

eat in: to eat food in a restaurant rather than buying it to take away

Gaby's offers food to eat in, as well as takeaway and a delivery service.

So,

Does "eat in" mean "to eat at home" or "to eat in a restaurant"?

And when do we say "eat in"?

2 Answers 2

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In American usage, there are four terms:

Eat out means to eat outside of one's home, that is, at a restaurant.

Eat in is the opposite; it means to stay home to eat.

Dine in means to eat inside a restaurant. This is in contrast to...

Carry out, which means to get food from a restaurant but eat it elsewhere, most often back at home.

"Eat in"/"eat out" are used when discussing whether to eat a home-cooked meal or a restaurant meal.

"Dine-in"/"carry-out" are used when discussing a restaurant meal at the restaurant or elsewhere. Of course this must be in the context of a meal which is able to be packaged and carried away; you would not "carry out" a three-course meal from a steakhouse, but you might "carry out" a hamburger from McDonald's.

"Eat in" to mean "eat a sit-down meal at a restaurant" and "takeaway" to mean "pick up a meal from a restaurant and eat it elsewhere" are not common terms in American English, but they might be in other countries.

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    Don't you think that depends on the context, for example, a restaurant seller would ask "would you like to eat in or take away?" but a wife who is at home would ask her husband "would you like to eat in or out today?"
    – Tom
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 2:51
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    In American English, no. The person at the restaurant would ask "Would you like to dine in or carry out?" and the person at home would ask "Would you like to eat in or eat out?"
    – randomhead
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 3:10
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    I've never heard dine in in British English. As Tom says in his comment above, the meaning I would assign to eat in would depend on the context., Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 9:15
  • It depends on where and whom you are talking to. If a cashier says "eat in or eat out", it is the same as an American saying "here or to go" or an Australian saying "having here or takeaway". Dine in and eat in always mean the same thing. Carry out means takeaway, takeout, or to go. Eat out is where it gets iffy as it can mean eating at a restaurant or having your food as takeaway.
    – Megas
    Commented yesterday
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It would depend on where you say it. If you say "eat out" at home, then, you obviously mean eating at a restaurant outside. If you say "eat out" in the restaurant, it could mean takeaway or takeout or it could also mean you want to eat at an outside table of the restaurant.

Eat in mostly means eating at the restaurant.

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