Asking for, Giving, and Refusing Permission in English

How to ask for, grant and refuse permission in English


1. Asking for permission

  • Can I...

E.g. Can I borrow your pen?

  • Could I ...

E.g. Could I use your phone, please?

  • Is it OK if I...

E.g. Is it OK if I use your computer for a minute?

  • Do you mind if I...

E.g. Do you mind if I close the window?

  • Would it be OK if...

E.g. Would it be OK if I left a little early?

  • Would you mind if...

E.g. Would you mind if I smoked?

  • Would you mind...

E.g. Would you mind opening that window?

  • I wonder if I...

E.g. I wonder if I could borrow $200.

  • I wonder if you’d mind ...

E.g. I wonder if you'd mind taking a picture of me?

2. Granting permission

  • Please/ Please do it

E.g. Can I take another bite of your delicious apple pie? - Please do it.

  • Please. I’m glad you like it.

(If you please/ If you wish so. I agree with your request)

E.g. Do you need me to help you in the garden? - If you please. There are a couple small jobs there.

  • If you don’t mind.

(Please do it if you don’t have objections. I agree with your request.)

E.g. Do you want me to turn off the television? - If you don’t mind. I’ve got to work on my article.

  • Would you please?

 (Please do what you are requesting.)

E.g. Can I help you with your English task?- Would you please?

  • Sure.

(Yes, certainly)

E.g. May I have another cup of tea?- Sure. Wait until the water is hot.

  • Go ahead.

(Do it. You have my permission.)

E.g. May I ask you a question?- Go ahead.

  • No problem.

(I don’t have a problem with your doing it.)

E.g. Can I borrow your bicycle? - No problem. Don’t forget to return it, though.

  • Shoot!

(Say it! Ask your question!)

E.g. Can I say something? - Sure. Shoot.

  • It doesn’t bother me any.

(It does not trouble me and I don’t have any objections.)

3. Phrases for denying or refusing permission

No, please don’t

I am sorry, but that’s not possible

I’m afraid, but you can’t

I’m afraid that’s not possible.

Unfortunately, I need to say no

I’m afraid I would prefer if you don’t do so.

4. Bring up a counter point

  • I hate to bring this up, but…

E.g. I hate to bring this up, but I see a major flaw in your theory.

  • I don’t mean to be negative, but…

E.g. I don’t mean to be negative, but the basis of your theory is questionable.

  • I don’t mean to be rude, but…

E.g. I don’t mean to be rude, but Professor Johnson comes to a different conclusion.

  • I may be wrong, but…

E.g. I may be wrong, but my test results contradict your assumptions.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but…

E.g. Correct me if I’m wrong, but some parts of your theory contradict each other.

  • You might me right, but…

E.g. Mr.Thompson, you might be right, but your theoretical results are hardly verifiable experimentally.

  • You may have a good point, but…

E.g. You may have a good point, but your proof is insufficient at best.

  • That may be true, but…

E.g. That may be true, but you can’t prove it.

5. Asking why a person looks unhappy

What’s wrong?

(What bad has happened?)

What happened?

What’s with you?

(Why do you look so depressed?)

What’s the matter?

What’s got you down?

(What has made you unhappy?)

Has something got you down?

(Has something made you unhappy?

Has life got you down?

Has life made you unhappy?)

Are things getting you down?

(Are things making you unhappy?)

Why do you look so sad?

Why are your eyes so sad?

Why is you face so long?

6. If you want to repeat your point...

  • Let me repeat what I have said

E.g. Let me repeat myself. We have to cut spending. We must. There is no other way.

  • Allow me to repeat myself

E.g. Allow me to repeat myself. Since this theory is based on incorrect assumptions, its conclusions are incorrect.

  • To repeat, …

E.g. You’ve heard my arguments. To repeat, the best course of action for us now is to wait and see.

  • To reiterate, …

E.g. To reiterate, I am in resolute opposition to your proposal since it is ill-considered and unwise.

  • As I’ve said,…

E.g. As I’ve said, it’s going to rain today. I don’t think we can go hiking.

  • Like I said,…

E.g. Like I said, I’m not interested in your excuses. I need a result.

  • As I was saying,…

E.g. As I was saying, out policies remain unchanged no matter what.

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Asking for, Giving, and Refusing Permission in English

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