Dinner or supper?

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shane

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Right, on to this old chestnut. If you are talking about your evening meal, usually after you get home from school or work, do you say dinner or do you call it supper?

Where I come from (UK; near London) almost no one says supper, they call it dinner. Supper is usually the snack you eat just before going to bed (I remember my mum saying to me as a kid "Time for supper, then up to bed").

When I teach here in China though, almost everyone calls it supper. One child told me today "My teacher said 'dinner' is what you eat at a restaurant, and 'supper' is what you eat at home" :shock:

As far as I'm concerned (and my teaching here), whether you call it dinner or supper is down to personal preference; i.e. whatever you were taught as a kid. No one ever sat me down and told me any rules concerned with the naming of meals!!

Actually, when I was a nipper (small child), I seem to remember two different naming conventions thus:

Breakfast > Lunch > Dinner

OR

Breakfast > Dinner > Tea

Both of those systems used supper as a name for the pre-bedtime snack.

Weird, huh??!!
 

Lib

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I agree Shane. When I was growing up we had breakfast, lunch and dinner. But then on Sundays we had dinner at lunchtime. So, as far as my family is concerned, dinner is the big meal of the day.
I now live in Spain and here people have a larger meal in the middle of the day and a smaller meal in the evening. In my house we call the midday meal 'dinner' and the evening meal 'supper', because dinner is bigger than supper.
It will be interesting to hear what others think.
 

RonBee

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I think it's a regional thing. My parents (who both grew up on farms) ate supper. I eat dinner.

8)
 

Tdol

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I agree with Lib that supper is smaller than dinner, but I also think it's the time- it's late. I don't use dinner for any meal before the evening, though many do. I haven't heard 'tea' being used recently, though it was common when I was a child. ;-)
 

shane

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tdol said:
I agree with Lib that supper is smaller than dinner, but I also think it's the time- it's late. I don't use dinner for any meal before the evening, though many do. I haven't heard 'tea' being used recently, though it was common when I was a child. ;-)

I always get confused when I chat to my students online and they ask me "Have you had supper yet?".
Why do I get confused? Because this is about 4 in the afternoon!! :lol:
 

Tdol

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Maybe they think your eating habits are in a different time zone. ;-)
 

Tdol

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If one can leave one's heart in San Francisco, the stomach shouldn't be much of a problem. ;-)
 

RonBee

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tdol said:
If one can leave one's heart in San Francisco, the stomach shouldn't be much of a problem. ;-)

LOL!

8)
 

Tdol

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Judy Fei

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Once I asked my teacher's friend's home helper, "Is this your supper?", and she said "Dinner". So I'm confused, it was at about 7 pm and her evening meal was very simple, just vegetable salad. Maybe supper is used pre-bedtime.
 

BonaVista

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Shane, since you're teaching English in China, have you noticed a difference that:

In China, the lunch is the richest one, at which people have not only more food but more nutritious food. And they believe it is a healthy life style to eat less in the evening.

In North America (I guess in UK it is the same) people don't eat much at lunch time, but rely on the meal in the evening for a full stomach.

My point is, Chinese think
1. dinner = chief meal in the day
2. evening meal <> chief meal

So they would rather use 'supper' than 'dinner'.
 

anupumh

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What is the concept of Supper?
I read it is something which you eat after your dinner, late in the night..?
 

suikerbossie

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When I was a child in South Africa it was always 'breakfast - lunch - supper'. 'Tea' really was tea with biscuits/cake mid-afternoon if someone came to visit my mother.

Maybe because my parents were immigrants, dinner tended to mean something more formal: Sunday lunch became dinner, or when we had guests for supper....

Supper was always the main (evening) meal of the day because shops/offices didn't close at lunchtime.
And snacks or snacking was unheard of. Now, even Italy is full of 'snacks'.
 

Hortence

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When I was a child in South Africa it was always 'breakfast - lunch - supper'. 'Tea' really was tea with biscuits/cake mid-afternoon if someone came to visit my mother.

Maybe because my parents were immigrants, dinner tended to mean something more formal: Sunday lunch became dinner, or when we had guests for supper....

Supper was always the main (evening) meal of the day because shops/offices didn't close at lunchtime.
And snacks or snacking was unheard of. Now, even Italy is full of 'snacks'.

It is the same thing in Québec, Canada: breakfast, dinner, supper. Breakfast first thing in the morning, dinner in the middle of the day (12:00), and supper after work, let's say from 6:00 to 8:00. However, I must say that we use more and more "lunch" instead of "dinner" these days, but "supper" is generally use when we speak of the last big meal of the day. Also, we must not forget the countless coffee breaks and snacks, which cut the day between the three large meals and before going to sleep!
 
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wace

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According to all dictionaries, supper is 'a meal eaten in the evening, or a small meal eaten in the late evening'.
A nice definition that leaves us none the wiser...
I think, as somebody pointed out, it all boils down to personal preference, family habits or regional usage.
 

avalidopinion

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"Dinner" is a rather more formal evening meal, Supper is informal and generally with family and is taken at around half past seven, Whilst "Dinner" would usually be later, From say half past eight onwards.:roll:
 

konungursvia

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The question may be more cultural than lexical. Supper comes from the French souper which is a light, soup-based meal. Le dîner is the large meal at which we "dine". Some people have dinner at lunch time, e.g. the Italians, while some have it in the evening. People who have dinner for lunch have supper for dinner.
 
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