British Meal Times

British Meal Times – Introduction

British meal times can be confusing for foreign visitors.

This post will look at the cause of this confusion and offer some solutions, plus a valuable tip for avoiding embarassment.

For those of you who prefer your content in video format, here’s a video based on this blog post.

The Things That Are The Same

Before looking at the things that cause problems, we’ll look at the British meal times that are easy and cause no confusion.

  • Breakfast – first meal of the day – literally to break your fast
  • Elevenses – coffee break in the morning at around 11 o’clock
  • Afternoon tea – traditional tea and cake around 3-4 o’clock
  • Supper – a snack before bedtime
  • Brunch – a substantial meal between breakfast and lunch, usually at the weekend

British Meal Times That Cause Confusion

british meal times - business english success

Some people say “breakfast dinner and tea“, while others say “breakfast lunch and dinner“.

As you can see, the same word is used for the midday meal and the evening meal. Your location and social class will determine which you use.

Generally speaking, lower class people from the north of England will say “breakfast dinner and tea” and upper class people from the south will say “breakfast lunch and dinner“.

The British still have a class system, with lower class, middle class and upper class. They understand the class system and don’t really talk about it.

As a foreign visitor, you probably don’t understand the class system and need someone to talk about it, in order to know what is going on. This article might help you to understand this a bit better.

The Problem

If you’re invited to dinner, what do you do? Does they mean the midday meal or the evening meal?

If you arrive at 12:30 and the host looks at his watch and says “We didn’t expect you until 6”, it is awkward to try and explain that you thought that they were poor and lower class.

To a lesser extent, if you get an invitation to tea and you turn up at 3 o’clock and the host expresses surprise and you apologies and say that you thought that they were posh …

In both cases it is embarrassing, as you have accidentally put someone into the wrong class, which is not considered friendly.

A Valuable Tip

There is a way to avoid causing offence and to avoid showing ignorance.

When you accept the invitation, ask what time you should arrive.

That way, you’re showing consideration for the host and avoiding a problem at the same time.

British Meal Times – Summary

As we have seen, using the same word for a different meal can really confuse a foreign visitor but now you know how to avoid the problem.

Did you know about this before now? Or do you have an interesting story about it? Please tell us in the comments section below.


  1. Stuart McCluskey

    As much as I’d like to just give a “tut tut” ( I’ll invite the author to explain, could be interesting..) and continue surfing the web, I fear I’ll regret not putting my 2 bob in..May I also begin by way of apology for my seemingly “factory” grammar, despite the fact I would confidently attempt writing a thesis on the minefield I witness here today! howzat!!
    So..where to start.
    The poor grammar..the stereotyping..Mmm.
    The slight misinformation? maybe we’ve stumbled on a propaganda ( not to be confused wiv me “having a look around”) site of disinformation as a prelude to war, ok as if…Britain hasn’t been invaded since 1797, so allow me to also defend our shores and Louise (+ j,fhvetcetcetc) by way of agreeing that this article is a Croc of shi#e, I think that was the jist of it.
    I’ll leave with two wishes firstly I do hope that no visitors of a foreign nationality have been poisoned by this crap and secondly the author took one of the courses recommended..oh don’t say they did Before submitting this B- key stage 2 attempt to educate.
    little quick quiz..1. name a country without a class system?
    2. describe a county. part or type of person(s) that would invite you to tea and shoot off before telling you what bloody time to arrive?
    I jest of course and wish no harm or offence.
    But please tidy this up..we’re missing dinner!

  2. j,hfvghyjutkdxclukfgi;

    It says British all over the article including in the title. Where it says English is in the website name. Maybe it’s you who didn’t read the article.

    Attacking someone saying they are living off of English taxes is completely unwarranted and has nothing at all to do with what time dinner is. Are you daft?

  3. Archie

    Louise last time I checked the title is business English success – not British nor is the title anything to do with the financial drag on are great country Scotland.

    So I must say I agree with the author and say he is completely Wright in his article as in ENGLAND that is the difference as I am from London born and raised and we say breakfast lunch and dinner , where people from the north of the county Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool etc say breakfast, dinner and tea.

    So please refrain yourself from attacking someone’s work when you clearly don’t have the respect to even read the article properly before passing judgement.

    Especially when you live off our country and taxes, with out England you would be a third world country behave yourself lmao.

  4. Louise

    As a British person…
    I shall say – What a load of rubbish!

    You have clearly no idea what you’re talking about to be able to educate others on this topic.

    Also, England isn’t the only country that Britain contains. This is written more for England only yet states it’s for Britain.

    You’ve not even covered Scotland at all. Which also has different terminologies for meals.

    The breakfast lunch dinner or breakfast lunch tea situation used to be a class thing with its use in England. Decades and decades ago. It’s not now in 2020!

    If someone turned up to your meal at the wrong time… People aren’t going to think you’ve mis-classed them. That is just hilarious!

    • Don’t sit on the fence – say what you really think! 🙂
      It’s true that people don’t talk about class but if you think that it no longer exists, you’re only deluding yourself. The names that people use for various meals is confusing for foreigners and it was my intention to provide context and help for non-native speakers. You seem to be Scottish, so we’ll be kind and call you a native speaker 🙂
      I’m sure there are other areas of the UK that have different names for all sorts of things. That doesn’t make the general terms invalid.

    • Maria Kendall Ahlsen

      Yes, this is three years later but somehow it crossed my path.

      As an American who grew up in Puerto Rico, I call the meals breakfast, lunch and dinner. In PR, the last meal was often called supper in English. My paternal grandmother was from the Boston, Massachusetts area and they said supper. I live in the Midwest of the USA (Kansas) and I’ve heard it both ways, although restaurants will have “dinner specials” in the evenings and “lunch” at midday.

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