How to Make Polite Requests in English

Making Polite Requests

If you observe the ways native English speakers speak to someone, you will find uses of “please,” “sorry,” “excuse me,” “thanks,” and the like. These words are used by people who love being polite. Politeness is a virtue. People who are polite and are of good manners are loved by all. Their requests are earnestly considered and accepted by the people surrounding them.  

Making requests means you are asking something from someone or you are asking someone to do something for you. Whether your request will be granted or not merely depend on the person you are requesting to. Thus you need to request in such a convincing way that the person happily accepts your request. But how?

Politeness in the choice of words and expressions is the key to making requests. Using the word “please” as well as some modal verbs like “could” and “would” can have a polite effect on the request. Remember! Your tone and body language also matter when you make any request to someone.   

However, the way you make requests may vary depending on the situation: formal, informal, and semi-formal.

FormalInformalSemi-formal
Would you please….?
Would you mind…?
Do you mind…?
Do you think you could…?
I was wondering if it would be possible to….
Is there any chance that I could…?
Would it be alright if I…?
Can you…?
Will you…?
Would you…?
Could you…?

Note: You may use formal expressions in semi-formal settings.

The table shows different expressions of making requests in different contexts: formal, informal, and semi-formal. Here you can also find 50 Examples of Polite Requests in English. To get to know more about the expressions, keep reading the post till the end.

How to Make Polite Requests in Formal Settings

Making Polite Requests in Formal Settings

Every day we deal with different people: family members, friends, colleagues, teachers, and students for different purposes. We meet known and unknown people in both formal and informal settings and even in semi-formal settings.

No matter in which situation we are, we frequently need help from others, and to have that, we make requests. In this part, I will be discussing the ways you can make polite requests in formal settings.

Would You Please…?”

Using the expression “Would you please…” is a very common expression to make requests. This expression is considered very polite. Let’s look at some example sentences.

Would you please pass the salt?
Would you please take me with you?
Would you please give it to him?

Though the above examples seem like questions, as they have a question mark (?) at the end, they are polite requests. Apparently, they look like questions, but the person you are requesting to will understand that you are actually requesting him or her to give something to you or do something for you.

Remember! When you use modal auxiliary verbs like “would” or “could,” you should use the present or base form of the verb.      

Would You Mind…?

“Would You Mind” is a very polite way of making requests in formal contexts. One very important thing to mention here is that when you use “would you mind” to make requests, the verb form should be a present participle (base+ing). The following examples will make the idea clearer.    

Would you mind joining the meeting this afternoon?
Would you mind writing a letter on behalf of all of us?
Would you mind passing the file to me?

Do You Mind…?

You can replace the expression “Would You Mind” with “Do You Mind.” Both can serve the same purpose of making requests in formal contexts. When you use “Do you mind” to make requests, you also use the present participle form (base+ing) of the verb. The following examples would make the idea clearer.

Do you mind joining the meeting this afternoon?
Do you mind writing a letter on behalf of all of us?
Do you mind passing the file to me?

Do You Think You Could…?

You can also make requests by starting with “Do You Think You Could…” The following examples will make the idea clearer.

Do you think you could join the meeting this afternoon?
Do you think you could write a letter on behalf of all of us?
Do you think you could pass the file to me?

Remember! In formal settings, you don’t ask for anything directly. If you ask for anything directly, it may appear to be orders rather than requests.

Some Other Ways to Make Polite Requests in Formal Settings

In addition to the above expressions, there are plenty of polite expressions to make requests. Let’s have a look at some examples.

I was wondering if it would be possible for you to…

I was wondering if it would be possible for you to send me the e-mail again.  
I was wondering if it would be possible for you to call me again this afternoon.
I was wondering if it would be possible for you to help me with this problem.  

Is there any chance that you could…?

Is there any chance that you could do it later?  
Is there any chance that you could finish the task by tonight?  
Is there any chance that you could arrange the meeting tomorrow?  

Would it be alright if you…?

Would it be alright if you call me at 10 PM?  
Would it be alright if you attended the whole seminar?  
Would it be alright if you do this for me?  

How to Make Polite Requests in Informal Settings

Making Polite Requests in Informal Settings

We can use “Can’ or “Will” to make requests in informal situations. These two modal verbs sound informal compared to “would” and “could.” 

When you request something from people who are known and close to you, you can use can or will. To ask something from family members, colleagues, and friends, you can use “can” and “will.”

Let’s look at the following examples.

Can you pass the box?  
Can you do it for me?  
Can you make it happen now?  
Will you go there?  
Will you send me the files?  
Will you buy the things?  

Like all the other requests, these are also in question pattern. Yet, they are requests.

How to Make Polite Requests in Semi-Formal Settings

Making Polite Requests in Semi-Formal Settings

There is very little difference between semi-formal and formal settings. In semi-formal settings, we can also use the same expressions in formal settings. However, in semi-formal settings, we can use the modals “would” and “could.’

When we make requests to older family members, senior colleagues, teachers, and the like, we should use semi-formal expressions.

How to Use “Would” to Make Polite Requests in Semi-Formal Settings

“Would” is very commonly used to make polite requests in semi-formal settings. Let’s look at some example sentences.

Would you do it for me?
Would you bring him home from school?
Would you send me some money?

How to Use “Could” to Make Polite Requests in Semi-Formal Settings

Like “Would,” “Could” is also very commonly used to make polite requests when the context is semi-formal. Let’s look at the following examples.

Could you join us today?
Could you go there on my behalf?
Could you call the police?

Use Your Voice Tone to Make Your Requests More Polite

Whenever you speak, your voice tone matters. It’s not only your words but your tone that can also help to convey a message. When you make requests for something to someone or want someone to do something for you, your tone has to be polite and convincing.

If your words are polite, but the tone is even a bit rude, your request may not work as expected. Be sure that your request does not appear to be a command just because of your tone.  

Your Body Language Makes Your Requests Even More Polite

Body language that includes gestures and postures is very important to have sound communication. Thus, these nonverbal cues can play a vital role when making requests. Let’s have a quick look at the different body language that you should maintain while making requests.

  • Always make eye contact. It shows that you are giving importance to the person.
  • Have a positive posture all the time. It will help you to convince the person you are requesting to do anything for you.
  • Be polite while you move your hands or other limbs of the body. Don’t overdo it.
  • Keep your facial expressions sympathetic. If you are generous to others, naturally, they will be to you too. 
  • Give full attention to the person you make requests to. Listen to him or her and respond accordingly.

In Conclusion

Whenever you make a request, maintain an attitude that can help you to make your request accepted. Your request should be genuine and sincere. The expressions and tips I have shared here to make polite requests properly can greatly help you to master the skill of making requests.

I hope this will help you. Thanks for reading.

happy learning.

Niaj A A Khan

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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