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How to make polite requests using modal verbs?

Making polite requests are a part of daily life in a range of situations – we might be in a formal setting like an office, at a work party or we might be making a request because we need something. Sometimes, even with friends, we might adopt a polite tone in stating our request so that we don’t sound rude.

When making polite requests, the modals ‘could’ and ‘would’ are very useful. Starting your request with these two modals immediately makes your request a lot more polite. Another word that’s often used when making a polite request is ‘please’.

Look at the following sentences and notice the difference:

Pass the sauce. (direct and instructional)

Please pass the sauce. (a little less instructional)

Could you please pass the sauce? (very polite and making a request)

Take a look at the following structures that will help you make polite requests:

Could you…?
Could you…
…pass the bowl?

…give me a second?

…hand me the drinks?

Could you please tell me…
…where the bathroom is?

…what’s in this dish?

Could you tell me…
…what’s the time?

Would you…?
Would you…
…play the song for us at the party tonight?

Would you please…
…reserve a seat for me?

…tell me when the party starts?

Would you mind + -ing form of verb…?
Would you mind…
…looking at it for me?

…attending to the clients for me?

You can also use ‘can’ and ‘will’ to make polite requests but these can be used in more casual situations. Again, you can vary the formality of the request by adding or removing ‘please’.

Can you…?
Can you please…
…give me that?

…move the table here?

Can you…
…pass that over?

…see the video now?

Will you…?
Will you please…
…call me when the party starts?

…make sure the table is set?

Will you…
…come to the gathering later?

…join us tonight?

Source: ABC NEWS

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