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The language of cutlery: Dining etiquette at the table

Labels: Culture

Surely on many occasions you have had to go to an elegant lunch or dinner, or a social event of considerable importance. Have you ever asked yourself what dining etiquette you should follow when you sit down to eat? Table manners are important in a series of situations, so its good idea to know some basics.

Formal table setting

Armed with a few simple etiquette rules following the Cutlery Language will always be beneficial and will certainly impress.

On the other hand, the language of cutlery follows good Manners.


Etiquette at the table: The position of the cutlery and its correct use

Protocol table service

The rules of table etiquette are very simple, and we will start with the position of the cutlery on the table: as you can see, in front of you is a plate, surrounded by the corresponding cutlery: spoons, knives and forks.

If it is a simple meal, the table etiquette is basic utensils on each side of the plate. But if it is an important and/or long meal, it is very likely that you will find more cutlery surrounding it.

Regarding the position of the cutlery on the table, to the right you will find the spoons and knives, always starting with the spoon on the far right, a small knife for starters (just to the side), and on the left, the traditional table knife (in both cases with the edges towards the inside of the table).

The same applies with the forks, which will always go to the left of the plate, placed in the order that will be used starting from the outside.

Place the water glass and wine glasses to the right of the place setting just above the table knife.

Above the place setting, you have a dessert spoon and fork. Bread and butter plates go to the left with the butter knife placed across the plate.

All cutlery should be placed at a distance of approx. 4cm.

Correct positioning of cutlery

It’s time to eat, where shall I start? The correct use of cutlery has a trick: always use the utensils on the outside first and working your way inward. If there’s a spoon on the far right, then this will be for soup, gazpacho, etc.

As for the starters, the same thing applies work your way from the outside in.

The same goes for the glasses, if you are serving both red and White wine, set glasses right to left in the order used, White wine for the first course and fish dishes on the outside, then for the red wine next.

Although in many cases, the cutlery for the dessert is not put on the table until the time comes, protocol places them on the table from the beginning. The cutlery for dessert is laid on the table above the dinner plate.


The language of the cutlery on the table

Language of cutlery

The language of the cutlery is very interesting and useful when it comes to socializing. Here are a few tips to get it right.

For example, when taking a break during lunch or dinner, you should place your fork and knife in the centre of your plate with the tips facing each other forming an inverted (V).

When you have finished eating a course, and you are ready for the next one, the correct thing is to place the knife and fork forming the shape of a cross, with the fork facing up and the knife to the left.

If you wish to show your appreciation, you can position the cutlery to the right. This way you will indicating to the staff that the food has been to your liking. But there are those who clearly show that the food has not been up to par, and for this the correct thing is to place the cutlery in the same position as in case of when you are taking a break but introducing in this case the tip of the knife between the teeth of the fork.

As for the positioning of the cutlery at the end of a meal, it consists simply by placing the knife and fork straight up and down in the centre of the plate, with which we are implying that we have finished and that the plate can be removed.

Last but least we have the dessert, you will find that the cutlery is situated above the plate as mentioned above.


The correct use of a Napkin

Standard etiquette on the table

As you know, a napkin is an indispensable at any meal, Napkin placement for each place setting is also an essential part of proper table etiquette.

But where should it be placed? It can be placed in different places, either on the plate or on one of the sides of the plate, but never, for example, inside a glass.

Whether it be to the right or to the left of the plate, the important thing is that the name or anagram that represents the brand of the restaurant be seen, if you have it.

If you’re not sure how to place your napkin, here are some easy guide lines to follow: pick it up as soon as you are seated, unfold and place across your lap. Now, if during your meal you have to get up, the ideal thing is that you leave it slightly folded to the right of the plate (never to the left, or on your chair).

Something you should never do and is totally unacceptable is to tie it around your neck as if it were a bib.

Another very common question is that of when the napkin should be used. The answer is simple: only for wiping your hands and dabbing your mouth.


There’s not much to it, no matter how old we get, table Manners is one of those areas of knowledge that can make us feel a Little overwhelmed, good table etiquette can go a long way.

Now you can put into practice these simple rules, and as they say “practice makes perfect!

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