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What Side Does the Fork Go On?

Table Setting Basics

There are numerous regulations one must be familiar with in regards to setting a table. Among these is the guideline dictating the correct placement of the fork. Understanding the positions of forks, spoons and knives is vital to achieving a correctly arranged table. This particular rule, along with other fundamental principles of table setting, will be discussed in depth.

  1. Fork should be placed on the left side of the plate.
  2. Knife should be placed on the right side of the plate.
  3. Spoon should be placed on the right side of the plate. 

Understand the traditional table setting

Table setting is part of the larger etiquette known as dining etiquette. As with any etiquette, it is important to have a clear understanding of table setting rules so that you can feel confident when hosting a formal dinner or when joining others for a meal. Proper table settings not only provide guidance for placing food on the plates and drinks in the glasses, but also give an indication of whether you should use your silverware from left to right or work inward from each side.

The traditional table setting consists of several components set in specific locations, including:

i). Place setting: This term refers to how the silverware is laid out on either side of the plate in relation to each other – usually placed left first and then right.

ii). Napkin: A napkin can normally either be laid flat or folded and should be placed on the left side of your plate if folded. If laid flat, then it should be placed directly under your fork(s).

iii). Bread plate: Served by the host, this course should be placed slightly above your forks at about one o’clock position.

iv). Dinner Plate: Usually rounded shape with straight sides and typically found at six o’clock position surrounded with courses listed above it.

v). Utensils: Located on either side next to their corresponding courses (e.g., salad fork next to salad bowl). Utensils are normally arranged from outside (e.g., salad fork) working towads the main course (e.g., steak knife). In some instances, utensils can double up, meaning that one piece can serve two purposes (e.g., butter knife/calssic steak knife).

vi). Glassware: Placed directly opposite each course – usually starting with water glass, then wine glass(es), followed by beer mug or cordial glass(es). 

Understand the continental table setting

The traditional form of table setting is known as Continental, particularly in Europe. This method places all utensils on the right side of the plate, differentiating it from the American and English style where utensils are placed on both sides. A continental table setting typically includes a dinner plate, soup bowl (optional), bread plate (optional), salad plate (optional), and two to three utensils – fork, knife and sometimes spoon – arranged from the outside going in.

The following items typically appear in this order from the outer edge of the place setting:

  1. Fork: The fork should be placed to left most far side of the plate, with tines facing down. This is closest to you when seated at your table setting.
  2. Knife: The knife should be placed to right most far side of the plate, with blade facing inward or towards your plate. If a spoon is provided it will be placed just below or beside the Knife with bowl facing up.
  3. Napkin: In between both plates often above or below them folded neatly. 


When it comes to proper dining etiquette, understanding the right way to use utensils is essential. One of the most important questions to consider is when to use a fork and what side it should go on. In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of forks and which side they should be used on. We’ll also discuss other utensils and their usage. 

Understand the purpose of each utensil

Learning the proper use of utensils at the dining table is an essential part of any dining etiquette protocol. Knowing which fork to use (or which spoon), and on which side of the plate they should be placed, can make even the most experienced diner feel a bit self-conscious.

Utensils are typically set according to their intended use, with the larger pieces being placed farthest away from the plate and progressing in size towards its center. The principle utensil is usually situated slightly left of center so that your right hand won’t need to reach over food items or other guests seated at the table. When choosing a utensil for a particular course, you should always work inward – beginning with whichever piece is placed furthest away from your plate and ending with whichever is closest. This can vary from course to course, however, depending on what will be served.

Forks are typically used for salads, cold dishes and some warm dishes, but never for soups or desserts. A salad fork may be placed on the left side of your dinner plate along with an optional cocktail fork; soup spoons are most often found just above your dinner-plate (above a soup bowl), though sometimes it will be served after entrées have been cleared; dessert spoons and forks may also appear higher up in line next to soup spoons; dessert knives (if needed) are commonly found directly above each dessert bowl; fish forks generally stand alone between entrée forks and salad forks and steak knives typically appear edge-in directly above each dinner plate if you plan to cut beef or “gauzy” poultry such as turkey or duck breast.

In addition to knowing where each utensil should go on your plate, it’s important that you understand why it’s there: What purpose does this utensil serve? Utensils that require food items be cut before consumption would have sharp edges such as knives or saw-like teeth like steak knives – knowing why these items appear can help inform how – and whether – you use them. Utensils meant for stirring such as soupspoons usually have tapered ends while those meant specifically for eating do not–so if you see something curved-ended bits sticking out line up top it means the utensil was designed specifically for eating versus stirring soups or other liquid foods like oatmeal etc. Knowing these details allow you to avoid awkward situations where you accidentally pick up one type of utensil instead of another! 

Understand the order of utensils

The order in which utensils should be placed at the table might vary depending on local customs and the specific dishes that are being served, but there are some general guidelines that can help guide your strategy. For formal dinners, utensils are generally placed in “outside-in” order – meaning the utensil you use for the first course is farthest from your plate, and each subsequent utensil moves inward one spot.

Utensils such as soup spoons or dessert forks are added on the outside of where they will be needed. Commonly used silverware items include:

  1. Forks, which go to the left of the plate
  2. Spoon, to the right of your plate
  3. Knife, to the right of your spoon
  4. Dessert fork (optional), above your plate
  5. Soup spoon (optional), to the right of other spoons. 

Placement of Utensils

Placement of utensils can be a confusing topic, as there is not always a set standard across all cultures and countries. However, when it comes to the fork, there is a general understanding of where it should go on the table. The fork should be placed to the left of the plate, with the prongs facing down and the handle facing up.

This article will provide a closer look at the placement of utensils and the different factors to consider: 

Place the fork on the left side

The placement of utensils is an important part of table setting etiquette and among all the utensils, the fork is the most commonly used item when dining. For formal meals and as a general rule of thumb, it’s best to place your fork on the left side of your plate for both American service (sometimes called a “Zigzag”) and European service (sometimes called “Butler”).

When American Service is used at formal dinners, the first course utensils can be placed either vertically or horizontally depending on preference. However, when European Service is used at more formal events, the first course utensils are always placed vertically. This type of service typically consists of three forks lined up together with one opposite to them – both in alignment with each other. Utensils that are not being used should be placed behind those that will be in use throughout the meal.

In some cases all courses may need separate sets of eating utensils or there may just be one to start which covers all courses such as a steak knife for thinly sliced steak and fish or pate knives for cream based spreads or soft cheeses. In other cases where multiple cutlery sets are required, they should also still follow this same rule with their placement – left side only! As a general rule it’s best to remember “left-hand only” when setting your table and you’ll never go wrong! 

Place the knife and spoon on the right side

The knife and the spoon should be placed at the right side of the plate. Generally, they will be placed side by side with the spoon furthest away. It is often helpful to remember that “fork” rhymes with “left” in order to remember which hand to use when placing cutlery on the plate.

Once this is accomplished, you can think about how you will use your utensils during your meal. The knife should always remain closest to the plate for all courses, except for dessert in which case it should be placed on top of your bread or dessert plate. The spoon will certainly be used for soup or cereal, but may also be necessary for things like mashed potatoes and stew. Since it too should always remain closest to the plate, it’s often a good idea to put it just past (or behind) your fork while setting up your place setting. 

Additional Utensils

Whether you are setting the table for a formal dinner or a casual meal, certain utensils may be necessary for the meal. While the fork and knife are the most common, there are other utensils you may need depending on the type of food being served. Let’s explore some additional utensils, where they go, and why you may need them. 

Place additional utensils on the right side

When setting a formal table, place the additional utensils that the diner is likely to need on the right side of the plate. This includes items such as a fish fork and knifesalad fork and spoondessert spoon and forkssoup spoons, and oyster forks.

Diners might also need individual butter dishes or other condiments at their place settings. These can also go either to the right side of the plate or in front of it depending on which option fits better into your table design.

When placing multiple utensils beside each other, it’s important to arrange them in order from innermost to outermost with those for courses served earlier near the plate. For instance, when setting a five-course meal with fish first, then salad, soup course followed by main course and finished with dessert; make sure you arrange silverware accordingly – fish forks being placed closest to plate on right hand site followed by salad forks, soup spoons etc – so diners easily find them when needed. 

Place the dessert utensils on the top right

When setting a formal table, there are certain established guidelines for utensil placement. Utensils should always be placed in the order of use, with the most used items at the outside left. On the right side of your plate, you should place your dessert utensils facing upward and on the upper-right corner of your plate. This includes the dessert spoon and fork or any other specialty utensils that may be necessary for a particular course.

As a general rule, place spoons to the right of forks in an unfolded position so that they also face upwards. Large serving utensils such as tongs should be placed either on top or on one side of your plate when not in use. It is best if you keep all other unnecessary items off the table such as salt shakers and condiments since these can easily become obstacles when guests reach for their main dishes or drinks.

By carefully following these guidelines for setting cutlery placement etiquette, you will provide an organized and inviting atmosphere for all guests during a formal dining experience. 

Special Considerations

When setting a formal table, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind. One of these considerations is which side the fork should be placed on. It might seem simple, but some people are unsure about where the fork should go. In this section, we’ll talk about some of the common conventions to help you get it right:

i). Forks are typically placed to the left of the plate.

ii). Knives and spoons should be placed to the right of the plate.

ii). The salad fork should be placed to the left of the dinner fork.

iv). The dessert fork should be placed above the plate. 

Consider the culture and region

When it comes to setting a formal table, the placement of cutlery, glasses and other items varies according to the region and traditions of different cultures. In some cases, certain items may be left off the plate entirely. Knowing the appropriate etiquette to follow can make you feel more secure when hosting a dinner or attending an event with established practices for serving food.

The easiest way to confidently set your table is to pay attention to where each item is placed in relation to other elements on the table. Most traditions follow some basic guidelines: Forks generally go on the left side of the plate and knives, spoons or any other cutlery go on the right side. Plates should be placed facing towards the diner on which any main course dishes will be served while glasses are usually located above or slightly left of the forks near the center of a place setting – except in France and French-influenced countries where they are usually positioned above and slightly right of your knife (in between it and your plate).

It is also important to consider if anything should be served not directly at guests’ places but instead somewhere else on a shared service – such as breads, condiments, relishes or extra foods requested by a guest. These items should find their home directly in front of guests but still left from where they are seated according to conventions observed in most cultures around the world.

Finally, when you begin learning about what fork goes on what side for different types of events you should keep two key factors in mind:

  1. Cultural relevance and
  2. Regional variations for ettiquette practices across countries – particularly between those influenced by both European and North American norms.

This will ensure that you can effectively prepare your table no matter who is visiting! 

Consider the type of meal served

When it comes to etiquette at the dinner table, there are certain rules you should adhere to in order to ensure that everyone’s dining experience is enjoyable. One of these is considering the type of meal served when setting your table. This includes paying careful attention to the placement of utensils.

Forks should always be placed on the left side of your plate and knives on the right. It’s important to remember that the sidedness changes for different courses throughout a meal. For example, for a salad course, you would place your salad fork on the left and your dinner fork directly to its right with a knife between them. However, if you’re having soup as your first course then place your soup spoon on the right side of your plate and rest any other utensils you may need near it.

Depending on what type of meal is served, different utensils may need to be used as well. When eating a formal dinner or an event buffet dinner where guests will be faced with multiple courses, it is best to have all necessary utensils lined up neatly in order from left to right according to how they will be used throughout the meal:

  1. Salad forks first (on the left),
  2. then fish forks (next on the left),
  3. dinner forks (next on the left) and so forth
  4. until dessert spoons which go furthest to the right after knives and above soup spoons if applicable.

If any specialty items are served such as oysters or cheese fondue then provide guests with specific serving tools like small tongs or fondue forks for those dishes so that everything runs smoothly during service times. Taking into consideration all these details will ensure that every guest feels comfortable throughout their dining experience at your table!


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