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I just came across these words Speisekarte and Menü. Can they be used interchangeably? If not,why?

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    Welcome to German Language SE. Can you please report why you think these words can be used interchangeably and what you have found so far? – Wrzlprmft Aug 17 '15 at 18:49
  • I'm learning the language using an application called Duolingo . It highlights the use of these words as such . I checked the meaning of Menü on the net , where it is defined as ' Set meal ' – Kishore Pattabhiraman Aug 17 '15 at 18:57
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    Well, then. How does that not answer your question? – Ingmar Aug 17 '15 at 19:13
  • @Ingmar Admittedly, searching for Speisekarte should have cleared this in a jiffy, but Menü can be tricky. So I chose to answer... If this gets closed, I can delete my answer. – Stephie Aug 17 '15 at 19:29
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    This is not an unreasonable question, as both mean menu in English. – Carsten S Aug 17 '15 at 21:48
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They can't be used interchangeably because they mean two very different things.

  • A Speisekarte is the list of food items / dishes that are offered in a restaurant. Sometimes drinks are included, sometimes there is a separate Getränkekarte for beverages or Weinkarte for wines.
  • A Menü is a sequence of dishes that are served at one meal. A typical Menü would contain three courses, but the number can be indicated by a numeric expression plus the term Gang, (= course) so a Dreigangmenü1 consists of three, a Fünfgangmenü of five courses.

Your set meal is actually a bit misleading:
You can "build your own menu" by choosing a sequence of dishes from the Speisekarte, e.g. a starter, a main dish and a dessert. A set meal is a pre-combined menu that is either offered by the restaurant (e.g. "Menü des Tages", often at a reduced price) or pre-ordered, especially if visiting the restaurant with a larger group where ordering individually might pose a logistic problem for the kitchen.


Side notes:
Don't confuse the German Menü with the English menu, the latter has both the meaning of "available items" and "sequence of dishes".
Also the menu on a computer is (confusingly, IMHO) called Menü in German...


1 also valid: Drei-Gänge-Menü and Dreigängemenü

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    Müsste es nicht "Dreigängemenü" statt "Dreigangmenü" heißen? – Robert Aug 18 '15 at 1:55
  • @Robert - das ist der Begriff der mir vertrauter ist. Duden nennt Dreigamgmenü und empfiehlt Drei-Gänge-Menü statt des (ebenso gültigen) Dreigängemenü. Ist wahrscheinlich dasselbe wie beim Fahrrad. Edit zur Vollständigkeit folgt, danke. – Stephie Aug 18 '15 at 4:45
  • @Stephie: Wenn wir schon dabei sind, bitte auch "dreigängiges Menü". – O. R. Mapper Aug 18 '15 at 14:03
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    Nach meiner Auffassung: Dreigangschaltung (Fahrrad), Fünfganggetriebe (Auto), Drei-Gänge-Menü (Restaurant). Kann aber nicht ausschließen, dass es da regionale Unterschiede gibt... – zebonaut Aug 20 '15 at 15:13
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A Speisekarte literally means dish card, and is list of dishes served by the restaurant. It is what an American would mean by the word menu.

A German Menü is something rather different. It represents a full "meal" of multiple courses. There can be several German Menüs listed on a single Speisekarte. The two words are not the same in German and cannot be used interchangeably.

Put another way, the word Menü is a "false friend" in German.

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