How to be polite in English: In this video you will learn the different ways to be polite in English. How to ask for things with the focus on the very polite forms such as using negative sentences with question tags. I’ve split the video up into five levels (but perhaps there are more). Using this technique you’ll find it easier to get what you want (even Pokemon)
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Now, in the English language we have a problem.
Other languages have polite and familiar forms of « you ». Such as “tu” and “vous” in French or “tu” and “usted” in Spanish. This is very convenient if you are making a request because as soon as you use the polite form you will by definition be polite. Modern English however, only has one word for “you” and this can pose a problem because you need to use other words to sound polite so it requires a more subtle use of the language.
Sometimes when non-native English speakers ask for something they can sound impolite even if they say “please”. For example, « Give me the book, please ». While it’s ok in some other languages to use an imperative to ask for something in English it can be interpreted as rude unless you know the person pretty well.
So how do you overcome this problem? In English basically the rule is that the more indirect you are the politer you are. There are several way to do this.
When we ask for things we will often use indirect questions. Let’s look at some examples
Can you tell me what time the show begins?
If you want to be more polite use could
Could you tell me what time the next train leaves?
Another common way to ask for something is by using “would you mind”
It’s hot would you mind opening the window for me ?
Would you mind turning off the radio ?
Another method is to use « I was wondering if followed by a pronoun followed by could.
I’m a little late I was wondering if you could take me to the station.
I’m tired I was wondering if we could finish this tomorrow.
I was wondering if my friend could also come to the party.
There are times when you need to be even more polite than this. For example if you stop a stranger in the street or you’re askng a friend for a big favour. How do handle these situations?
In these cases you might want to use the most polite form of all.
And that is the negative statements followed by a question tag.
Usually, with the verb “to be”, “have” “could” or “would”. Let’s look at some examples.
Excuse me, I couldn’t borrow your car this evening, could I?
So we have a negaitve statement: (I couldn’t borrow your car) followed by the question tag. The question tag has the modal verb “could” and because the statement is in negative the tag will be in the affirmative.
The pronoun, in this case “I”, is always at the end.
Also you should pronounce the question tag with a rising tone to show that it’s a real question. “could I ?”.
“I couldn’t borrow your car this evening could I?”
Here are some more examples.
Listen John, I’m a bit broke at the moment. You wouldn’t lend me 50 pounds until next week, would you?
Finally, to take the sentence to the maximum level of politeness in addition. to the question tag. You could add “by any chance” to the end of the phrase.
You’re not free tomorrow, are you by any chance?
You haven’t got a bigger towel have you by any chance?
OK so let’s return to our earlier scene and see how we get on using this super polite form.
There you are so now you can manage any situation by choosing the appropriate level of politeness. Now go out onto the streets and see if it works and let me know.