Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever tried to make reservations in English?

Do you want to know the right way to ask for this in English?

Are you interested in understanding the process and how it all works?

We’re going to look at how to make reservations in English, how the process works in American culture, and the terms to use in conversation.

Plus!! Sales close May 1st at 11pm Japan time for the Native English Power Weekend so go and get your tickets now. Go here.

Here’s a letter from our community-member Ai Shinozaki who had a question about this.

Hi Lindsay,

My question came up when I arranged an event. I’m a little confused about using these words; “booked” “reserved” and “made a reservation.” I think they have to do with how to keep a room or a seat in a restaurant. Do you find any differences in these words as an English native? How can I use these words in a natural conversation?

Hoping you can help me make sense of this.

Best, Ai

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Understanding The Idea of Reservations

If you are dealing with a very popular restaurant, then you may wish to call and try to make reservations to get a table.

If you are trying to get into a restaurant on the weekends, then you might want to see if they take reservations.

You wouldn’t however call in for a reservation on a weekday for lunch.

You would likely focus on places that get busy, that are new or popular, or if you are trying to get in during a busy time like a Saturday night for dinner.

Now that you have a feeling for when you might make reservations, let’s get into exactly what this means and how it all works.

How Does It All Work?

So you can start to understand when you might try to make reservations, but how does this even work?

How do you go about making a reservation?

Let’s start with understanding the terms around this idea to better understand how it all works.

  • Reservation: This means to hold a table for you at a particular time. It essentially saves your spot for you at the time that you request.
  • Reserved: This means that your spot is saved for you. It means that you have your name on a list and you are all set at that time that you requested.
  • Make a reservation: This is the actual act of holding a table. It means that you are calling the restaurant or accessing it online with the intent to reserve a table for yourself. It is the actual act of reserving your spot.
  • Book(ed): This may be a little less formal sounding but it essentially means the same thing. You might say “I booked a table” and it means that you got a reservation. That spot is again saved for you and your reservation is booked.

All of these terms apply to making reservations, and therefore have a place in these conversations.

How The Process Works

What else can you use these words for?

Reservation is usually for restaurants or maybe renting a car, and sometimes it may be about getting a hotel.

Book or booked tends to be more broad in nature, and therefore used for a variety of activities.

So how would a phone conversation work with these phrases?

It’s important to be friendly when making a reservation, even if it can be frustrating if nothing is available.

You want to ask for the time or date that you are interested in, recognizing that you may need to be flexible.

You may call or you may try to access these reservations online, and either option can work well.

If you go in with a good attitude, a little flexibility, and just try to get the reservation that you want it will all work out much better for you.


Both book and reserve are great words in these situations.

Reservation tends to be used the most in restaurants.

It’s important to know this specific language so that you can use it appropriately.

It’s also important to recognize that sometimes restaurants do not take reservations.

This is all part of integrating into the culture and using the right words and phrases to make connections.

Go here now to get your tickets for the Native English Power Weekend. Sales close today!

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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