I know most of you will be shocked to hear this, because this is the reaction I get when I explain this to even advanced users of English. But I’m sorry, it’s true!
To invite means to ask or request someone to go to an event.
You are extending an invitation, asking someone to join you in doing something, there is absolutely no connotation with money!
When I am at a restaurant, and it’s time to pay, often a non-native English speaker will say, ‘I invite you.‘ This is incorrect use of English. It is grammatically incorrect (‘I invite you‘, is present simple, which we use for something that is always true or a routine) as well as lexically incorrect (the wrong word for the situation).
The way to express that you would like to pay is by using one of the following expressions. You would say one of these when the waiter comes to the table with the bill.
- ‘It’s on me.’
- ‘Let me get this.’
- ‘My treat.’
- ‘I’ve got it / I’ve got this.’
- ‘My shout.’
- ‘I’m buying.’
- ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ve got this one.’
- Make eye contact with the waiter, and a simple ‘thanks‘, indicating that ‘you’ve got this.’
If you want to make it clear that you will pay before you go to lunch/dinner/drinks/an event, you could choose one of the following:
Context: Asking a friend/colleague to have lunch with you, and you will pay.
You could say this: ‘Do you want to join me for lunch at XYZ restaurant, it’s on me?’
‘It’s my treat’/’My shout’/’I’m buying,’ all also work equally well.
Context: Asking a romantic interest for a drink, and you will pay.
You could say this: ‘Would you like to get a drink Friday evening?’
With a romantic interest, the polite thing to do is to pay. You don’t need to say it before the event. When the bill arrives, a smooth native-speaker would say to the waiter subtly, ‘I’ve got this.’ Or even better, just indicating with eye contact and a simple ‘thanks,’ indicating that you are paying.
Context: Asking a group of friends to your birthday dinner at a restaurant, and you want to pay for everyone. (This is quite rare in many English-speaking countries, normally when we are invited as part of a group, we expect to pay for ourself, otherwise we think it’s unfair for the person whose birthday it is to pay for everyone…I know the culture is different in Europe!)
You could say this: ‘I’m having dinner Saturday night at XYZ restaurant, I’ve invited around ten others, you know most of them—John, Sarah, Sue etc. I’d love for you to join, I’m buying.‘
‘The food and drinks are on me.’
So you can see here that I’ve used the word invite in the correct context—to express that I’ve asked some friends to join me at an event—not to imply that I am paying. The expression at the end of my sentence carries this meaning: ‘I’m buying’/’the food and drinks are on me.’
And that’s it! The word invite is not used all that often by native English speakers. And it does not mean, ‘I am paying.’ If you invite someone you are asking them to join you in doing something, which can be asked without using the word invite!
Next time you are at a restaurant, and you want to foot the bill—an idiom meaning to pay—then why not use an easy, ‘I’ve got this,’ when the waiter comes around, and feel confident in the knowledge that you’ve not only avoided two English mistakes, you’ve also impressed your fellow diners with your generosity 🙂
If you found this helpful please let me know in the comments section and I’ll keep these coming. Also let me know if you would like a video made or an article written on any ‘challenges’ you have with the English language.
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- ‘It’s on me.’