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ESL forum > Ask for help > Breakfast, Dinner, Tea    

Breakfast, Dinner, Tea

United Kingdom

Breakfast, Dinner, Tea
Hi People! I īve been at a summer camp for a week or two and I īm going back this weekend. This year we are using English speaking volunteers as conversation assistants and monitors. These volunteers have never taught English and we use them to get the students to get accustomed to speaking to natives. The kids are very confused by a lot of what they hear. One of the things they find most confusing is this thing we have in the British Isles about calling lunch "dinner" and dinner "tea." Where I come from we say it this way. Most people I know from the North say it this way and I know a few Londoners that employ it, too. And the women that used to supervise children īs lunch time in the UK were called "dinner ladies." Not "lunch ladies." Is this a class thing or a regional thing? What do you call it where you come from? Are there other English speaking parts of the world where this happens? Is just that I īm thinking of creating some kind of activity about this.Confused

11 Jul 2012      

Hong Kong

The origins of the word dinner means meal, but it must be more confusing to use the word tea for a meal in the evening rather than a good cup of rosy lee but maybe I am just tiffing!

11 Jul 2012     

United Kingdom

Where I come from they have breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. It is mainly regional, but I think there is a class thing as well. We always thought it was very posh if anyone talked about lunch!

Now I always have lunch and I have dinner in the evening. I also have patio doors (not to eat!). Boy, am I middle class!

11 Jul 2012     

United Kingdom

Yeah, we had supper, too. I sometimes wonder if the reason that my Spanish colleagues talk about the English having tea at five is just because of that. When I stay with my folks in the summer they always have "tea" (dinner for the posh folks out there) at about five. In London it īs later though. Must be the traffic jams.LOL As for the English drinking tea at five, I drink a cuppa every hour if I have a chance. Love the stuff!Heart

11 Jul 2012     

Czech Republic

This is what I was taught - dinner = the main meal of the day, supper = small meal / salad,
tea = snack in the afternoon

breakfast in the morning

lunch at 12-14 - could be a sandwich, salad, soup, or a small cooked meal

tea - a light snack + drink at 16-17

dinner - a big meal, the main meal of the day - at 12-14 or 18-20, at the dinner table, with friends, with candles, "special occasion"

supper - a small meal, "light" supper, cooked meal or a salad, smaller portions, could be served later in the evening (20,00)

So in some cases dinner = lunch = supper ->
Dinner might be lunch or supper, accoring to the portions and time of the day when served

11 Jul 2012     

Czech Republic

See wikipedia

Supper may refer to, on largely class-based distinctions, either a late-evening snack (working and middle class usage) or to make a distinction between "supper" as an informal family meal (which would be eaten in the kitchen or family dining room) as opposed to "dinner"; generally a grander affair (either or both in terms of the meal and the courses within the meal itself), which would be eaten in the best dining room, may well have guests from outside the household, and for which there may be a dress code. It is common for social interest and hobby clubs that meet in the evening after normal dinner hours to announce that "a light supper" will be served after the main business of the meeting.

In England, whereas "dinner", when used for the evening meal, is fairly formal, "supper" is used to describe a less formal, simpler family meal. In some areas of the United Kingdom, "supper" is used to describe an evening meal when dinner has been eaten around noon. In some northern British and Australian homes, as in New Zealand and Ireland, "tea" is used for the evening meal. In parts of the United Kingdom, supper is a term for a snack eaten lafter the evening meal and before bed, usually consisting of a warm, milky drink and British biscuits or cereal, but can include sandwiches.

In Ireland, a "chicken supper" is a meal of chips, gravy, onions, peas and chicken breast. Similarly in Scotland and perhaps elsewhere in the United Kingdom, such as in Ulster Scots, a fish supper is a portion of fish and chips. The word is used also as a modifier in this way for a range of other similar meals, such as a "sausage supper", "pastie supper", "haggis supper" and indicates the presence of chips.

In New Zealand it is similar – generally cake and tea/coffee served later in the evening, particularly when people have visitors.

The distinction between dinner and supper was common in United States farming communities into the twentieth century. In most parts of The United States and Canada today, "supper" and "dinner" are considered synonyms. In many areas, including Ontario, the term "supper" may be rarely used. In Saskatchewan, and much of Atlantic Canada, "supper" means the main meal of the day, usually served in the late afternoon, while "dinner" is served around noon. "Dinner" is used in some areas, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, to describe the noon meal as well as special meals, such as "Thanksgiving Dinner" or "Christmas Dinner", the evening meal being "supper". For harvest meals put on by churches and other community organizations, the term used is "Fowl Supper" (features turkey) or "Fall Supper", never "dinner".

On the Philippines, dinner, in contrast with supper, is taken well past noon (4 pm-7 pm), hence termed "Hapunan" from "hapon" meaning "noon", it is usually the formal-heavy meal, while supper is usually taken night-time (8 pm-10 pm), likewise termed "Gabihan" from "gabi" meaning "evening or night", is usually a casual-light meal, before sleeping. In Malaysia and Singapore, "dinner" refers to the first evening meal, while "supper" refers to the meal taken later in the evening after dinner, usually between 9PM and midnight.

11 Jul 2012     

Czech Republic

As you can see, it is complicated...

But the standard way is:
dinner = the main meal of the day (either at noon or in the eveing)

supper = light meal of the day (sandwich, salad, or soup)

tea = biscuits + drink = "snack"

In literature or films the usage of supper, dinner and tea as well as slang expressions  often indicate the  class of the main character or his/her "origin" - hometown / homecountry. 
Watch and read Jane Austen books - films or contemporary films with your students...
It varies...

11 Jul 2012     

United States

There was an episode of the British SitCom "Are You Being Served" (I think that īs from the 1970s) in which the very proper Captain Peacock reprimanded the rather low-class Miss Brahms for talking about Breakfast, Dinner and Supper. He told her in no uncertain terms that educated people eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Tea didn īt enter into the conversation.

11 Jul 2012     


Let īs just say that in world English the following goes (no matter how big or important the meal in question is):

Morning meal: breakfast
Midday meal: lunch
Evening meal: dinner

I agree there are many regional differences, but unless someone is preparing for overseas travel to a particular country, I don īt see the point in explaining these regional idiosyncrasies.

11 Jul 2012     


Grubs up
If you dont eat your Meat you won īt get any pudding.
Remember this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR5ApYxkU-U

12 Jul 2012     

United States

Moravc īs first post is pretty-much spot-on and I agree with Philip about breakfast, lunch, dinner being "world English". 
However, I think (as a minimum) the concept of "tea-time" ( I was taught that it was more of a late afternoon snack of maybe tea and cookies) should be taught.  I also suggest that you explain "Sunday dinner" (the big family meal usually eaten in the early afternoon--after church-- on Sundays).

12 Jul 2012     

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