In an A1 writing exercise about ordering at a restaurant, I encountered the phrase "How can I help you?" with the hint "Lit. What do you wish?" I was not prepared with an answer so I learned a new phrase!
Are the phrases interchangeable?
I'm not sure which writing exercise you're referring to, but I imagine our sentence in Spanish was probably: ¿Qué desea/desean?
There are different idiomatic ways to say How can I help you? in a shop, in a restaurant..
In restaurants and bars you may hear things like:
¿Qué desean los señores? What would you like?
¿Qué les pongo? What would you like [to eat or drink]?
¿Qué les sirvo? What shall I serve you [again, what would you like?]
As you can see, nothing literal but all idiomatic expressions which don't coincide with the English.
In a shop, the most common phrase the assistants use when asking the clients How can I help you? is ¿En qué los puedo ayudar?
Thank you so much for your response - all of that information is helpful and interesting!
For reference, the writing exercise is called "Booking a table in a restaurant (A1)". I have a lot of learning to go before I understand idiomatic expressions so I'm not even sure how important this is, yet, but I'm curious. Is the literal phrase "How can I help you?" used in Spanish-speaking countries? How might it be received if I used it as a non-native speaker? Are there any lessons in Lawless that I can explore regarding this?
If you say ¿Cómo puedo ayudarle? they will definitely understand you everywhere in Spain and Latin America - it´s not really wrong, it's just a lot less common to hear that - in any case you may hear more "¿En qué puedo ayudarle?
We don't have any lesson related to this directly, but you may find this one useful which is about the different polite ways to say what you'd like in a shop, in a restaurant, in any establishment:
¡Muchas gracias, Inma!
Sign in to submit your answer
Don't have an account yet? Join today
Test your Spanish to the CEFR standard