A request is when we ask someone for something. Since we are asking someone for help, it is important to be polite.
We must avoid being too direct.
Here are examples of being too direct:
“I want help.”
“Pass me the salt.”
“Can you carry my bag?”
These questions are all correct English but they are too direct. These are not polite requests. They are in fact quite rude. People will be offended because they will think that you are giving them orders.
In this lesson, you will learn several methods to make a polite request. The first few examples are to be used in spoken English. The last example is for written English.
Polite requests in spoken English
Could you .. ?
Form: Could you + base form of verb ….. ?
Could you carry my bags?
Could you give me some advice?
Could you carry these boxes?
We can add “possibly” to be even more polite. We put “possibly” in between “Could you” and the verb.
Could you possibly hold my drink?
Would you mind .. ?
Form: Would you mind + ing form of verb … ?
Would you mind carrying my bags?
Would you mind giving me some advice?
Would you mind helping me?
Would you mind taking my photograph?
I wonder if you could .. ?
Form: I wonder if you could + base form of verb … ?
I wonder if you could mind my bag?
I wonder if you could give me some advice?
I wonder if you could help me?
We can add “possibly” to be even more polite:
I wonder if you could possibly take me to the airport?
Negative statements with question tags
A statement is a normal sentence. It is not a question. We can add question tags to a negative statement to transform the negative into a question. This is very formal English and it’s an excellent way to ask someone something politely.
There are several ways of doing this:
Form: You couldn’t + base form of verb … + could you?
You couldn’t help me, could you?
Form: You wouldn’t + base form of verb … + would you?
You wouldn’t take me to the airport, would you?
Form: I don’t suppose you could + base form of verb … + could you?
I don’t suppose you could clean the bathroom, could you?
Polite requests in written English
Here is a good expression for formal emails and letters:
I would be grateful if you could + base form of verb …
I would be grateful if you could send me your price list.
We can add “most” to be even more polite:
I would be most grateful if you could send me the reports.
Notice that these are not questions. They are affirmative statements. Therefore, do NOT write a question mark at the end. (?)