I was watching the story _ L'homme pressé_ by Alice Ayel, and at 01:55, she says

Maurice commande sur la carte

However, when I look at the meaning of the preposition "sur", it generally means "on,over, towards .." and with none of them the sentence makes sense, so is there any problem with the sentence ? or it is just the way how French is ? I mean the translation does not make sense, though it does not have to always, but I was curious.


The phrases are clearly separated, Alice doesn't straightly say Maurice commande sur la carte which would be unusual albeit understandable but she says:

Maurice commande;

Sur la carte;

Il commande;

Au serveur;

Dans le restaurant;

Il commande au serveur;

Le plat du jour.

At the same time she is pronouncing each phrase, she is drawing what she says, like the carte here. The goal is obviously for people not knowing the words used, to learn them visually. Making the phrases as simple as possible, and repeating them helps people to familiarize themselves with spoken French.

The meaning is obvious, he sees what the plat du jour is on the menu and orders it, i.e.:

Maurice orders a Today's special, (details of which is) on the menu.

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It means ordering dish by dish, as opposed to a set menu. 'Sur' does not have a physical sense here, it is more like out of the card.

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  • what do you mean exactly by "out of the card" ? – onurcanbkts Feb 22 '19 at 9:14
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    I don't think I've ever heard “sur la carte” for this: ordering an individual dish rather than as part of a multi-course menu “à la carte”. – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Feb 22 '19 at 13:29

It's not the best possible French, it is barely acceptable ; I personnally, wouldn't say it. That is language prompted by the need to express much in a few words and which therefore stretches the meaning of words to the point sometimes of making them special to only one situation; there is another usage of that sort in French, "commander dans un catalogue"; again, it's not the best possible way to say what corresponds to the action implied; it's better to say "commander à partir d'un catalogue".

There are numerous alternative ways to mention a menu and an order passed on the basis of a choice made from that menu.

  1. Maurice commande son repas à partir d'une sélection qu'il fait sur la carte.

  2. Maurice fait son choix sur la carte et passe sa commande.

  3. Maurice lit la carte du menu puis passe sa commande.

  4. Maurice choisit sa commande sur la carte et la passe au serveur au fur et à mesure.

There are other possibilities, such as "Après avoir parcouru la carte, Maurice passe sa commande."; note that in cases "2" and "4" the préposition is "sur"; this is correct because the menu is a sheet-like object; if it were a book-like object, such as a catalogue, you'd have to say "dans" (Elle a choisi cette robe dans un catalogue.).

It's worth noticing that the following combinations are not found in print (according to ngrams);

commande sur le menu, commander sur le menu, commandé sur le menu, commander sur la carte, commande sur la carte, commandé sur la carte

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    I guess she was trying to make the sentence simple as much as possible. – onurcanbkts Feb 22 '19 at 10:23
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    @onurcanbektas I wouldn't think so; I think that's a form used by some people but not all practices are shared by all and we have to admit, there are all sorts of way of speaking a language from slang to literary language; I am just saying that this is a form that will be avoided by certain persons and anyone can choose to do so; however it 's good to know it and understand it : it's part and parcel of the language so to speak. – LPH Feb 22 '19 at 10:59
  • LPH, you are missing the point again. You make people think you are a native French (I personally, wouldn't say it). You give a definitive and wrong statement about how French should use their own language: commander à partir d'un catalogue is not better or worse than commander sur un catalogue, what is idiomatic is commander sur catalogue. You suggest a non idiomatic phrasing (choisit sa commande). Maurice choisit son plat or passe/fait sa commande. What a native French person could have written is Maurice choisit son plat dans le menu/sur la carte et le commande au serveur. – jlliagre Feb 22 '19 at 13:03
  • @jlliagre Your point of view is warped; I can accept perfectly well from a native anglo-saxon such an assertion in the light that there are, nowadays, such people that could teach the French language to the less fortunate part of the French population; the nativeness is nothing; it's only a matter of proficiency in the chosen language. « faire une commande à partir d'un catalogue» est tout à fait correct ((TLFi) en prenant comme origine logique) et « faire une commande sur catalogue » l'est aussi en tant qu'expression figée qui signifie la même chose. (champ 1) – LPH Feb 22 '19 at 15:25
  • @jlliagre In the case of « choisit sa commande » one must agree, this is not all that logical (before being idiomatic or not) ; what is chosen is rather the object of an order, rather than the order; however, let's not forget that the TLFi says this : « P. méton. Marchandise ayant fait l'objet de la commande (cf. ex. 10). ». Lastly, so as to reassure you that there is not case of outrageous usurpation I'll confide to you that I was born in this country, am the possesser of a French ID card, and that I live in the country. – LPH Feb 22 '19 at 15:39

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