You probably know the common ways to make suggestions or give advice. Check out this page for a refresher on how to use “If I were you”, “You should”, “You ought to”, etc.
But native-English speakers use many more phrases for suggestions. Here are seven advanced phrases for you to try. There’s also a section on how to respond to suggestions.
When you use these alternative expressions, you’ll sound more natural. The phrases are also easy to use and remember: just add the details for your conversation and you’re “good to go”!
I thought we might / could …
You often see past modals “might” and “could” used in making suggestions. We use these because they put a little distance between us and the other person. The result is that the suggestion sounds less definite, so that the other person can disagree without causing an argument!
Here are some examples:
“I thought we might try out that new restaurant at the weekend.”
“I thought we could pop in to see James on the way back.”
You can also use this phrase with “I”:
“I thought I might go to an evening class this year.”
Can’t you ..? / Couldn’t you ..?
When you use the negative form of “can” and “could”, the suggestion is stronger and it can sound more like a request than a suggestion. For example:
“Can you go shopping later?”
“Can’t you go? I’m really busy today.” / “Can’t Rachel do it? She’s at home all day today.”
“I’m finding it really hard to make ends meet. I don’t earn enough.”
“Couldn’t you ask your boss for a raise?” / “Couldn’t you get a part-time weekend job?”
You could always…
This is a good alternative to saying “You could”. For example:
“You could always try to get a different job.”
“You could always ask me if you needed a bit of extra money.”
You could do worse than…
Here’s another suggestion phrase with “could”. When you say this, remember that the verb following “than” is in the infinitive form without “to”:
“You could do worse than apply to UCL. It’s got a great reputation for History.”
“You could do worse than speak to your boss about a raise. You’ve already been there for two years.”
You may / might as well…
Remember that the verb following this phrase is also in the infinitive form without “to”. It’s a great phrase for making suggestions because it shows that the suggestion is logical. For example:
“You may as well go the the library when you’re in town.”
“You might as well speak to your boss. What have you got to lose?”
I’m thinking out loud here…
You often hear this in conversation when someone wants to give an opinion or make a suggestion – but they haven’t thought about it in great detail. So the other person can criticise it without causing a problem.
“I’m thinking out loud here, but if we went on holiday in May, we’d get a better deal.”
“I’m just thinking out loud here… Suppose you told your boss you’d got a great offer somewhere else? Or is that too risky?”
Well, if you want my opinion…
Here’s another way to introduce your suggestion.
“Well, if you want my opinion, it’s unlikely that he’ll give you a raise.”
“Well, if you want my opinion, trying to “blackmail” your boss into giving you a raise is a bad idea.”
How to respond to suggestions
Here are some common ways to respond to suggestions:
“I thought we might / could…”
“Yes, good idea.”
“Yes, I’d be up for that.”
“Can’t you / Couldn’t you..?”
“Well no, I can’t actually.”
“Well I could I suppose, but…”
“You could always…”
“May as well.” / “Might as well.”
“You could do worse than…”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“You may / might as well…”
“I’m thinking out loud here…”
“Hmm, interesting, but don’t you think…”
“Well, if you want my opinion…”
Reply: “Actually, I don’t!”
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