You can now download our latest free MP3 audio lesson, entitled “You are the Course Book!” It was a really fun session on WizIQ.com this week, so I hope that you will get a lot out of it. Any feedback is of course very welcome!
Imagine the scene: a young couple arrive home after a long day at work. One of them is hungry. There are many different ways to get what you want in English, but being polite will probably be the most effective way. But how polite should you be? Look at the following levels of politeness, and decide which level is the most acceptable:
↑ MORE DIRECT ↑
2. “Make dinner!”
3. “Make dinner, please.”
4. “Can you make dinner, please.”
5. “Could you make dinner, please.”
6. “Could you possibly make dinner, please.”
7. “Could you possibly make dinner, please, if you have time.”
8. “Could you possibly make dinner, please, if you have time – if you don’t mind.”
9. “I was wondering whether you could possibly make dinner, please, if you have time – if you don’t mind.”
10. “Sweetheart – I was wondering whether you could possibly make dinner, please, if you have time – if you don’t mind.”
↓ MORE POLITE ↓
Answer: Level 5 or 6 would be fine in this situation, while Levels 1-3 are too direct. In general, English ears hate to hear the imperative voice (giving orders). Levels 7-10 are maybe too polite and too formal for a young couple who know each other well. As you can see, the more words and clauses in the sentence – and especially the more modal verbs – the more polite it becomes.