How to Follow Table Manners

Many people feel out of place when dining simply because they don't know how to follow table manners, especially if they have been invited to a nice place. Admittedly, it is difficult to learn every point of etiquette at a glance, but here are a few general pointers. Remember, good manners never go out of style.


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    Observe your host. Follow their lead. The key objective in learning table manners (etiquette) is to feel comfortable when dining with others, and the host generally the leader at a dinner party or meal. If you are the host, don't panic. Ensure you read up on etiquette before taking on the role of hosting and operate within the boundaries so that you are easy to follow.
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    Wait for the host to invite you to the table. He or she may assign you to a seat. Stand behind the chair as the other guests get assembled. When the host sits, take your seat. You'll get extra points for helping others, such as the elderly, into their seats before you take yours. After you sit, pull your chair in to the table, without dragging it over the floor with a horrible scrape. Take your napkin from the table immediately, and place it neatly on your lap. Then sit up straight, just like Mom always tells you. And keep those pesky elbows off the table, too.
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    Emulate your host. Put your napkin in your lap when you see them doing it. Match their rate of eating. (After all, no one wants to have an empty plate when their host is only halfway done with the dish.) If you see them eating finger food with a fork, follow their lead - even if it seems unreasonable. Assume that your host is always right; unless you can definitely tell that they have bad manners, in which case you may follow another guest.
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    Use the appropriate cutlery. If there are many utensils in your place setting and there is more than one course, start on the outside and work your way in. Again, observe your host if you have any doubts.
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    Be polite. Consider every action before you do it and if you have the slightest doubt, don't do it! You must consciously refrain from embarrassing yourself and your host. Take small bites; do not chew with your mouth open; do not talk with food in your mouth; and do not place elbows on the table.
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    Learn to pass items. When someone says, "Please pass the (what you would like passed to you)," reach for it only if you are the closest one to it. Take the item and place it next to your neighbor. Continue passing the item in this manner until it reaches the person who asked for it. Refrain from helping yourself along the way, before the person who asked for it gets the chance. Wait politely until they have served themselves. Then ask for the bowl to be passed back to you.
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    Take one roll or one slice of bread only. If you have a bread plate to the left of your fork, put the bread on it. When the butter is passed to you, use the serving knife to take a pat. Place it on your bread plate. Then pass the butter dish along with the serving knife to the next person. Use your fingers to tear off a bite-size piece of bread. Butter only that bite-sized piece. Then eat and repeat as desired.
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    Place your napkin next to your plate on the table when you wish to leave. Wait for your host to indicate the meal is complete. Then stand up. Push your chair back in and thank your host for a delicious meal.


  • Don't put your fingers in your mouth or pick food out of your teeth. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom.
  • Do not take the last of something until you ask if anyone else would like some.
  • Don't talk with your mouth full.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • If you need to leave the table, say "Excuse me". It is not necessary to say where you're going.
  • If anything unintended (a burp, hiccup, or food) comes out of your mouth, excuse yourself quietly. Don't make a big deal of it, and no one else will.
  • Keep elbows close to your body when cutting and eating.
  • If you are chewing gum, dispose of it before you sit down to the meal. Often, there is no place to put it, and sticking it under the table is definitely not good manners.
  • Don't bring your face down to the plate. Instead, sit up straight and bring the utensil up to your mouth.
  • Leave food on your plate that you do not want without comment.
  • Do not overload your plate at a buffet.
  • Do not tilt your chair back.
  • Do not hum, sing, or whistle at the table unless everyone else is.
  • Do not salt or season your food until after you taste it.
  • In public, never criticize or bring attention to the eating habit of others.
  • Once you've used a utensil, don't let it touch the table again! Leave it on your plate.
  • Do not push your plate away when you have finished eating.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Do not dip twice into a communal dish.
  • Never put liquid in your mouth when you have food there- unless the food is burning your mouth.
  • Pick up your glass when drinking through a straw.
  • Clean up spills quickly to protect surfaces.
  • When people leave the table, do not ask them where they are going.
  • Do not crush ice into your mouth.
  • As far as wine glasses go, the rounder one is for red wine and the taller one is for white wine. Hold your white wine glass by the stem to avoid warming it but hold your red wine glass by the cup as red wine tastes better warmed.
  • Rest elbows on the table between courses and after the meal, but not during.
  • Following table manners is more than knowing which fork to use and knowing how to cut up your steak. without looking like a Neanderthal; most of it is about your attitude. Even if you slip up in the silverware department, you can make up for it by being polite and graceful in your conversation, which is essential to any well-mannered guest.
  • If you make any loud clattering noises or drop a spoon (or something like that), do not draw attention to it. Chances are that no one noticed, or even cared.
  • When it comes to bread plates, cups, etc., many people wonder which one is theirs when dining at a big table with many other people. Always go for the one on the left.
  • Don't shake or scratch your legs on the floor.
  • Don't lick your fingers, use the napkin. Try not to chew or talk with your mouth open. No one wants to see that.
  • Do not interrupt if someone is talking.
  • Don't make sounds with your forks or spoons while eating for example scratching them on your plate or tapping your glass.


  • Unless you are dining with a very close friend or group of friends, there are certain things you should not discuss while dining. Use your best judgement when it comes to this, and again remember to be polite.
  • Taking small bites is very important. If you do not, you could be caught in that rather unpleasant situation in which someone asks you a question just as you are chewing that large mouthful. While this is sometimes unavoidable, you can minimize the time they wait for you to swallow the morsel by taking smaller bites to begin with.

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Categories: Dining Etiquette