Giving orders and instructions in English

There are several ways to give orders and instructions in English. Here are some of them.

Use the imperative form

We use the imperative form to give orders, warnings and advice:

Be quiet!

Take care!

Come here!

Put it there!

Listen!

Soften the imperative form with let’s or please while talking to an adult.

Let’s go now, shall we?

Please listen to what I’m saying. (More polite than ‘Listen to what I am saying.’)

Come with me, please.

Use a modal auxiliary verb to turn an order into a request

Modal auxiliary verbs can make orders and instructions sound more polite. For example, ‘Could you help me?’ is more polite than ‘Help me!’

More examples are given below.

Could you make me some tea?

Could you bring me that file, please?

Can you do something for me?

Could you lend me 50 dollars, please?

Could you pick up the kids from school, please?

Can you come here please?

Can you wait a minute?

Will you keep quiet please?

Can you do this for me?

Would you wait here until I’m back?

Could is more polite than can. Both can and could are followed by an infinitive without to.

Use an introductory phrase to soften the order

Instead of using an imperative, you can use an introductory phrase. Here are some common ways of rephrasing an order.

Would you mind…?

This is the most polite form. Note that would you mind…? is followed by a noun or an –ing form.

Would you mind waiting for an hour?

Would you mind moving a bit? (= Please move a bit.)

Would you mind helping me with the housework? (= Please help me with the housework.)

Would you mind opening the window? (= Please open the window.)

I was hoping…

I was hoping you could lend me some money.

I was hoping you could spare me a few minutes.

I was hoping you could help me with the homework.

Do you think you could … (+ infinitive without to)

Do you think you could type these letters for me?

Do you think you could tidy up the room?

Do you think you could help me with the housework?

I’d like you to…

This phrase is used to make a more direct request. It is more like an order than a request.

I’d like you to help me with the housework.

I’d like you to type these letters for me.

I want you to…

This is the least polite of all these forms. It is used to issue an order.

I want you to do the laundry.

I want you to finish this report by tomorrow.

I want you to clean the windows.

I want you to wash the clothes.

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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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