How to Ask Politely

Don’t make the mistake of saying “I want” when you ask people for things in English. This makes you look rude, and they will be less likely to want to help you!

Instead, here are some better, more polite ways to ask for things. In the video below, you can also check out ways to reply when people ask you what you want.

If you’d like more help understanding the video, you can read the transcript under the video.

Video Transcript

Hi there! I’m Clare from english-at-home.com

In today’s video I want to look at some of the ways that we can ask for things in English. It’s important that when you ask for something, you’re really polite. In fact, this is kind of a cultural thing, so I wanted you to know about it.

But a quick reminder before we get started. If you’re new to my videos, please subscribe to my channel, because you get a new video every week to help you with English speaking, vocabulary, and with pronunciation. And you can subscribe to my channel by clicking that button there.

OK. So here’s the big mistake. If you want something, don’t just say “I want.” So don’t say “I want a tuna sandwich” or “I want a cup of coffee” – because this is really, really rude.

Instead, you should say “I’d like”. “I’d like” is short for “I would like”. So “I’d like a tuna sandwich” or “I’d like a cup of coffee”. In fact, when people ask you what you want, they’ll often say “What would you like” or “What can I get you”.

So remember, the first way to ask for something in English is to say “I’d like” (I’d like a cup of coffee) and then it’s even better to say “Please” at the end:

“I’d like a cup of coffee please.”

Other ways to ask

Other ways that we can ask for things is by using the verb “can”. So for example:

“Can I have …. a tuna sandwich please? or
“Can I get … (a tuna sandwich please)?

And you could also say “Can you pass me…?

If you want someone to give you something that you can’t quite reach:

“Can you pass me the salt please?”

Or “Can I take …? So if someone has finished reading the newspaper, maybe on the underground, you could say “Can I take the paper please?” or “Have you finished with the paper?”

How to reply

So imagine someone asks you what you would like for a present, maybe a Christmas present or a birthday present. They could say something like:

“What do you want for Christmas?” or
“What would you like for your birthday?”

You could reply with something like

“Well, I’d love a ….” (and say what it is you want) or
“Ooh, well you know, I’ve got my eye on … ”

If you’ve got your eye on, it means that you’ve seen something and you really, really want it.