October 20

Phrases You Need to Know to Sound More Polite in English


Some people believe that certain phrases or certain sentence structures in English sound more polite. And as a language learner, sometimes it's difficult to know what kind of things are polite in a language and you can often sound a little bit too direct.

Every language has different ways of expressing things, some languages are more direct. Some languages use more polite language, and they do it in a different way.

I'm not saying that if you don't say these things, you're not polite. And I'm not saying you have to say these things in order to sound polite. But let's talk about ways in which you might be able to sound more polite in English. So let's talk about a few different scenarios.

1. Ordering food

I'd like...

I would like...

I'd like the roast chicken.

If you're ordering something, normally you would say 'the,' for example, the beef, the chicken, the duck. So you could say:

I'd like the roast chicken, or

I'd like roast chicken. 

I'll have...

I'll have the roast chicken. 

Can I have...?

Can I have the roast chicken?

Can I get...?

You hear this one all the time. If you go into a shop in the UK, or you go into a restaurant, you'll hear people saying "Can I get?" and "Could I have?"

'Could' is a little bit more polite sounding than 'can'.

Could I have the roast chicken?

2. Asking somebody to do something for you 

Can you open the window?

Could you open the window?

Could you open the window, please?

Would you mind opening the window?

Would you mind passing me the salt?

Can I turn on the radio?

Do you mind if I turn on the radio?

Would you mind if I turned on the radio?

Is it okay if I smoke here?

3. Giving somebody else a suggestion

"Why don't you..." might sound a little bit direct.

How about...?

How about trying this?

How about some tea?

Would you like some tea?

Would you mind helping me?

Would you mind helping me for a moment?

Could you possibly help me?

There's actually a joke online that says that English people often speak in a really indirect way. We often don't say exactly what we mean, because we're worried about being impolite. So this is actually a really important point in British culture. So the joke goes, if an English person says "I think that might not be the right answer," they're basically trying to say, "That's the wrong answer." Or if they're saying to you, "let's meet really soon," they mean, "I never want to see you again!"

It's not like that exactly. But we do try to use more polite forms in everyday speech, especially in a business situation. Or when you're dealing with somebody, maybe in a public place who you haven't talked to before. Another thing you might want to think about is how to say yes, and no.

4. Saying 'yes'

Sometimes, just saying 'yes', could sound like you're impatient. You don't have time to to answer that question in a lot of detail. So you could actually use more enthusiastic or polite forms of 'Yes'.

You could say:




Yes, please!

5. Saying 'no'

No, thank you.

I'm sorry, but I don't agree.

I'm sorry. I don't agree with that.

I'm not sure that's right.

I think you may be mistaken.

6. If you didn't hear somebody clearly 

Instead of saying "what" you could say "Excuse me"

I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.

Could you say that again?

Try to remember these phrases, and maybe you can use them next time you're speaking English. I'm not saying that these only ways to be polite, but they could give you a good start! I really hope you found this useful. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment for me below, and I'll get back to you.

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