Placing Flatware


seven basic rules

  1. Flatware is laid on the table in the order of use. The placement starts on the outside of the place setting and moves inward toward the plate.
  2. Because the majority of people are right-handed, the knife and spoon are laid on the right side of the place setting and the fork(s) on the left.
  3. With an uneven number of people are seated, the odd­numbered place settings are laid opposite the middle of the even-numbered place settings.
  4. The lower edges of the utensils are aligned with the bottom rim of the plate, about 1 inch up from the edge of the table.
  5. To avoid hiding a utensil under the rim of a plate or bowl, lay it approximately 1 inch away from the side.
  6. To eliminate fingerprints on the handle when placing flatware on the table, hold it by the "waist," the area between the handle and the eating end of the utensil.
  7. Fork tines may be placed downward, in the continental style, or upward, in the American style.

dinner knife

The dinner knife is laid to the right of the plate, with the blade facing the plate.

At an informal meal, when salad is served as a side dish with the main course, the dinner knife is used to cut both salad and the main course.

But at a formal event, if salad is served after the main course, a salad fork is laid next to the dinner plate, and an extra dinner knife is laid to the left of the regular dinner knife. When a knife is needed for the salad course, it is presented to the diner on a tray.

fish knife and fish fork

The fish knife and fish fork are placed on the table in the order of use.

  • When fish is served as an appetizer, the fish knife is laid to the right of the dinner knife and the fish fork to the left of the dinner fork.
  • But if fish is served as the main course, the fish knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate and the fish fork is laid to the left of the plate.

  • dessert fork and dessert spoon

    The dessert fork and dessert spoon (or dessert knife), are placed differently at formal and informal affairs.

    Formal Events

    At a formal event, the dessert fork is laid on the left side of the plate, and the dessert spoon (or knife) is placed on the right side of the plate. The diner lays the utensils on the table in respective order.

    Informal Events

    At an informal meal, when two utensils are provided for dessert, the utensils are laid on the table or presented on the dessert plate.

  • The dessert spoon (or dessert knife) is laid on the table above the dinner plate in a horizontal position, handle facing right.
  • The dessert fork is laid beneath the dessert spoon (or dessert knife), handle facing left.

  • The dessert utensils may also be presented on the dessert plate in the same way as formal service.

    fruit knife and fruit fork

    The fruit knife and fruit fork are presented on the fruit plate in the same way as dessert utensils.

    butter spreader

    The butter spreader is laid on the bread-and-butter plate at formal luncheons and all informal meals.

    At a formal luncheon or informal meal, the butter spreader is laid on the bread-and-butter plate in one of three positions: horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.

    1. In the horizontal placement, the butter spreader is laid across the top edge of the bread­and-butter plate, parallel with the edge of the table, an alignment that repeats the parallel arrangement of stemware.
    2. The vertical placement of the butter spreader echos the perpendicular alignment of flatware.
    3. The diagonal placement reiterates stemware aligned at an angle.

    Although the way the butter spreader is placed on the bread-and-butter plate is a matter of choice, the important point is keep the alignment the same for the entire table setting.

    soup spoon

    The soup spoon is placed on the right of the outside knife.

    teaspoon

    The teaspoon, after-dinner coffee spoon, and demitasse spoon are placed on the saucer behind the cup handle. The spoon handle faces the diner in a four o'clock position, ready for use. But when a teaspoon is used as an eating utensil, such as cereal at breakfast, it is laid on the right side of the place setting.

    iced-beverage spoon

    The iced-beverage spoon is laid on the table on the right side of the glass. But once used it is not returned to the table. Instead, the iced-beverage spoon is held in the glass while drinking.

    seafood fork

    The seafood fork is laid on the right side of the soup spoon. It is the only fork placed on the right side of the place setting. The fork tines are placed in the bowl of the soup spoon with the handle at a 45-degree angle. It may also be laid next to the soup spoon in a parallel position.

    salad fork

    The salad fork is laid on the table in the order of progression. When salad is a first course, the salad fork is laid to the left of the dinner fork. If salad is served after the main course, the salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork.