How Ordering Rice Might Have You Begging for It! (Elementary)

ordering food

Ordering food can be intimidating for new learners living in China. Menus are often filled with unusual delicacies, and the Chinese descriptions can seem as strange as the English translations (if you’re lucky enough to have translations). Anyone want some “stir-fried Wikipedia?”

So when it comes time to call the “服务员 (fúwùyuán) waiter ” you might find yourself wondering how to order without looking stupid . One thing you probably don’t want to say is “要饭 (yàofàn).” It sounds innocent enough: “I want rice” or “I want to eat more.” But if you say it, when the waiter giggles, you’ll be begging to know what you did wrong.

While “要 (yào)” means “want,” and “饭 (fàn)” means “rice,” “要饭 (yàofàn)” actually means “to beg!” “要饭的 (yàofàn de)” means “beggar.” If you say to a friend, “你要饭吗?(Nǐ yàofàn ma?)” expect them to fire back with a laugh or a joke of their own. “他要饭 (Tā yàofàn)” means, “He’s begging for food,” and “他是个要饭的 (Tā shì gè yàofàn de),” means “He’s a beggar.”


Wǒ bú shì yí gè yàofàn de.
我   不 是 一 个 要饭   的。
I’m not a beggar.

Tā méiyǒu qián, suǒyǐ měitiān dōu yào fàn.
他  没有      钱,所以   每天     都   要   饭。
He is so poor that he has to beg for food everyday.

How do you ask for rice the right way? In Chinese, you can say “我要米饭 (Wǒ yào mǐfàn).” If you want to express “eating” or “having a meal,” say “吃饭 (chī fàn).”

HSK 3 quiz

1. Which one is not the right way to say “I want rice”?
A. 我要米饭 (Wǒ yào mǐfàn)
B. 我要饭 (Wǒ yàofàn)
C. 我要吃饭 (Wǒ yào chīfàn)
2. What word means “waiter” or “waitress”?
A. 服务员 (fúwùyuán)
B. 老板 (lǎobǎn)
C. 厨师 (chúshī)

HSK Test
General Chinese (Beginner Level) 
General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

2 thoughts on “How Ordering Rice Might Have You Begging for It! (Elementary)”

    1. jennifer.zhu

      Wow, great! You got the correct answers, very good. And we will keep updating more interesting posts, please feel free to check!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top