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12 / 03 / 2007

BOOK vs. RESERVE: meaning and examples

Good morning. I hope everybody had a nice weekend.

Today we answer a question sent to us by Olena Tokarenko:

Hello Matthew,
I would like to know the difference between to book and to reserve, booking or reservation.
Thank you for your help. Olena Tokarenko

This question reminds me of Cris Rosa's question about Client versus Customer (March 5) or Robert Oliver's question about Pill versus Tablet (March 6). The verbs to book and to reserve are synonyms.

Here are the definitions according to the Oxford Advanced Learner's dictionary.

To book means: to arrange with a hotel, restaurant, theatre, etc. to have a room, table, seat, etc. available on a particular date.

To reserve means: to ask for a seat, table, room, etc. to be available for you or somebody else at a future time.

These verbs can be used interchangeably. However, according to some sources, to book is more common in standard UK English and to reserve is more common in standard US English, but there is lots of variation.

Example 1:
I will be going to Paris with my wife for Easter week. I have already booked the flight, the hotel room and I have even reserved tickets for the theatre.

Example 2:
Matthew: Good morning. I'm calling to reserve a table for two tonight.
Restaurant Employee: I'm sorry, we're fully booked. We have no more tables available.

Reservation and booking are the noun equivalents of these verbs.

Example 3:
Speaker 1: Good afternoon. I'm calling to reserve a table for a business lunch. Could I make a booking for Friday afternoon?
Speaker 2: I'm sorry; to make a reservation you have to call after 7:00 PM. Can you call back then, please?

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Have a good day.