by Liz Walter
Food shopping is something that nearly all of us do, and it is the kind of basic topic that is often quite difficult in another language. This post looks at some words and phrases you might need if you go to a supermarket in an English-speaking country. Note that — as so often with everyday language — there are lots of differences between UK and US vocabulary.
First, you will need something to put your shopping (UK)/groceries (US) in as you go around the supermarket: usually a basket that you hold in your hand or a trolley (UK)/cart (US) that you push around on wheels. The areas between the shelves where shoppers walk are called aisles. This is a useful word to know if you need to ask where something is:
‘I’m looking for olive oil.’ ‘Certainly. It’s in aisle 6.’
Walnuts are in our baking section.
Everyone likes to get the most they can for their money, and supermarkets often have special offers on particular items — for example by selling them more cheaply than usual or giving a discount (a lower price) if you buy a larger quantity. They might offer two for (the price of) one, also known as BOGOF (UK)/BOGO (US), which is an abbreviation for ‘buy one, get one (free)’.
When you have all the things you need, you go to the checkout (the place where you pay). If you pay with a credit or debit card, you may be asked to enter your PIN (press the numbers of your card’s code).
Can you enter your PIN for me, please?
Sometimes supermarkets allow contactless payments (paying with your phone or by putting your card near the machine). To ask about this, you need to use the verb ‘do’:
Do you do contactless? (UK) / Do you do contactless payment? (US)
Some stores offer self-service checkout, where you can scan your items (pass the packet’s code over an electronic reader) and bag them (put them in bags) yourself. If you only have a few items and don’t want to wait in a long queue (UK)/line (US), you can use the express lane (UK & US):
I don’t want to wait in line. I think I’ll use self-service this time.
Our store’s express lanes are for customers purchasing 15 items or fewer.
Many supermarkets encourage loyalty by giving customers a small card that gives them some advantage if they shop there regularly. General names for these are loyalty cards, though different stores often have their own names. Typically, when you pay, you get points that entitle you to money off future shopping.
After you have paid, you will be given a receipt (piece of paper that shows what you bought and how much it cost). You may also get one or more vouchers (UK)/coupons (US) (pieces of paper that give you money off an item or a future purchase).
Do let me know if there is any other aspect of shopping where you are unclear about the English words and phrases to use.