7. Requests

A. Positive requests.

When we want someone to do something, we may use the imperative with please.

Please in initial position tends to be more emphatic. Note that there is no pause (and no comma) after it. Nor is there a pause before please when is used in the end of the sentence, in spite of the comma.

In many situations, however, the imperative with please is not considered polite enough. Then we use one of the following phrases (said with a rising tone), which are listed in order of increasing politeness (formality)

Will you… (please)?

Would you… (please)?

Could you … (please)?

Do you think you could…?

Would you mind ...ing?

Will you be so kind as to…? - very formal

Would you be so kind as to…? - very formal

The choice between the various alternatives given above depends on:

  1. how large the request is (and therefore how much trouble or inconvenience it will cause);
  2. how well we know the person we ask. Thus the same request may be formulated with different degrees of politeness.

When one has little hope of one’s request being granted, or at least wishes to give this permission, one can use I don’t suppose.

The usual replies are:

(yes,) certainly – formal

(yes,) of course. – semi-formal, informal

All right. – expressing a lesser degree of willingness

OK – informal, often casual (only among friends and relatives)

(Yes,) here you are. – when handing someone something he has asked for.

Not at all/ in the least/ a bit. In reply to Would you mind…?

I am afraid I can’t - formal, semi-formal

(I’m) sorry, I can’t – semi-formal, informal

No, I can’t/ won’t - a point – blank refusal. Abrupt, possibly rude.

B. Negative requests

If we want someone not to do something, we can say:

Please don’t…

Would you mind not …ing? - more polite

Try not to …

{Back to Contents}