BAD : Dinner usually consists of three dishes.
GOOD : Dinner usually consists of three courses.
BAD : The main dish was roast beef with fresh vegetables.
GOOD : The main course was roast beef with fresh vegetables.
MEAL · MENU · COURSE · DISH · THE DISHES · PLATE
Meal A meal is the food that you eat at about the same time each day: ‘After the meal we went to a discotheque.’ ‘We usually have our main meal in the evening.’
Menu A menu is a list of all the things that you can order in a restaurant: ‘I tried to read the menu but it was all in French.’ ‘Is there any fish on the menu?’
Course A meal may be served in separate stages. Each stage is called a course: ‘The main course was disappointing, but the dessert was excellent.’ ‘I’m not hungry enough to eat a three-course meal.’
Dish A dish is (1) the food prepared in a particular way and served as a meal or part of a meal: ‘My favourite Italian dish is lasagne.’ ‘For the main course there were six different meal dishes to choose from.’
(2) a (usually shallow) container that food is placed in and then cooked or served: ‘I hope this dish is ovenproof!’
The dishes The dishes is a collective term for all the plates, bowls, cups, etc, that are used during a meal: ‘Whose turn is it to wash the dishes tonight?’
Plate A plate is (1) a (usually round) flat object that food is placed on, especially just before it is eaten: ‘All the clean plates are still in the dishwasher.’ ‘I’d never seen anyone put so much food on their plate.’
(2) (also plateful ) the amount of food on a plate: ‘How can you eat two large plates of spaghetti and still feel hungry?’
BAD : Some children have to prepare their own dishes.
GOOD : Some children have to prepare their own meals.
BAD : Dinner is the main dish of the day.
GOOD : Dinner is the main meal of the day.
See Language Note above