Be Polite When You Speak English

When you learn a language, you don`t just need to learn its vocabulary, grammar, idioms, etc. You also need to learn the strategy of being polite. It is not about your level of language but it`s more about your skills of communication. You may express yourself in different ways and give different impressions only by changing the structure of sentences or words. You can speak the most excellent English, but if you appear rude, other people won’t desire to talk to you. For example, when you say '"You’re wrong" instead, "I think you might be mistaken", you deliver the message directly and it seems so forward.

You need to gain information about being polite over almost everything else. Politeness helps us to interact with other people efficiently and smoothly. However, if English isn’t your native language, it may be challenging to know what’s polite and when to use a polite expression. Here are some quick tips, words, and expressions to help!


Indirect Language

We should use indirect words or phrases to be polite during the conversation. Let`s see the difference between direct and indirect language.

Close the door

Could you close the door, it`s a bit hot here?

The second one is more polite and indirect. It is more suitable to use indirect questions when you are speaking to a person. 


Don’t use commands

If you want to be polite, you should avoid using the imperative form. You should ask questions to be more polite instead of saying “Do this!” 

Using modal auxiliaries helps you to make requests:

 Can / Could you

 Would you mind (+ ing)…

“Could you help me finish the project?”

 “ I was wondering if you could help me.”


 Ask for permission

If you want to do something that might be a problem for someone else, you should ask them for their opinion.

 Do you mind if I

 Is it OK if I

“Do you mind if I change the color of our office room?”

Would it be okay if…?
Do you think you might be able to…?
Would it be a problem if…?


Ask for other people’s ideas

You should use vague words like a bit/ kind, modals of possibility and ask for people`s opinion not to make imposition on others. When you`re straightforward, others may not share their opinion with you. You may use a variety of soothing phrases to seem less fixed.

kind of / a bit

 “It’s a bit too late to walk in the street now. Shall we stay in?”

may / might

 “It might not be possible to do you the payment for the job next month.”


Make it easy for the other person to say no

When you use direct words in the conversation, you give people the chance for declining a request or say “no”. One way to be less direct is to use past forms:

“I was wondering if we could talk about your success rate in the new projects.” (past continuous)

 Did you have time to scan my project?” (past simple)


Use the miraculous words

These words are the simplest strategy to get you what you want. 

Please – when we want something

Thank you – we use to express pleasure

Sorry – we use for apologizing when we do something wrong

Excuse me – we use when we disturb someone


Ask Negative Questions

To be more polite, you should use negative questions to share your opinion, make a suggestion or ask a question. Using negative questions softens the language.

For example; 

We need to check the files one more time. → Don’t you think that we should check the docs in the file one last time?

Here are some common expressions that will help you sound more polite in English.



That sounds great, but…
I’m sorry, but I really can’t. I have to…
I really appreciate the invite, but…

I’d love to help, but right now I’m really busy with…
I wish I could, but right now I need to focus on…



Sorry to interrupt, but…
Could I add something?
After interrupting someone:
I’m sorry, you were saying.
I’m sorry, go ahead.



That’s not necessarily true.
I’m not so sure I agree.
I don’t know that I agree.
By partially disagreeing or using indirect, tentative language, we can soften our message.


Ending a Conversation/Excusing Yourself

Well, I’d better get back to (the task you’ve been working on)…
I’ll let you get back to (what other person is working on)…
I have to run/I have to get going. It was nice talking to you.

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