How To Make A Request Or Question Sound More Polite


Yes/no questions

We usually make requests less direct by putting them in the form of yes/no questions. This suggests that the hearer can choose whether to agree or not.

Expressions of opinions can also be made less direct by turning them into questions.

Past tenses

Past tenses are often used to make requests (and also questions, suggestions and statements) more polite.

Present progressive forms can be used in the same way. They sound more casual and less definite.

Past progressive can make a request even less direct (and so more polite).

Future tense forms

Will need/have to can be used to soften instructions and orders.

Modal verbs

The modal verbs would, could and might can be used to make questions, requests and suggestions more polite.

Would is often used to form requests and offers with verbs like like and prefer.

Note the common use of would before verbs of saying and thinking to make a statement sound less definite.