What Is the Proper Table Setting for Silverware?

ProFlowers/CC-BY 2.0

The basic rules of setting a table specifies that forks go to the left of the plate, while knives and spoons go to the right. Knife blades always face the plate, and silverware is placed in order of use, from the outside going inward.

A basic table setting includes a fork, knife and spoon. A knife or spreader specifically for spreading butter is optional. If the hostess elects to use one, it rests diagonally on the bread plate, a smaller plate to the left of and above the main plate. The handle should remain to the right with the blade facing down.

An informal table setting usually includes the basic utensils plus a butter spreader or knife, a salad fork and a soup spoon. The salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and is usually smaller. This is also the correct position for the small forks used to eat some appetizers. The soup spoon goes to the right of the dessert spoon. An acceptable alternate placement for a dessert spoon is above the plate, parallel to the table edge with its handle facing right. If the hostess sets out a dessert fork instead of a spoon, its handle faces to the left.

Settings for a formal dinner vary according to the courses to be served but normally follow the “outside in” rule. However, the oyster fork is the exception to the rule of forks going on the left; it goes to the right of the spoons.