Below is the list of useful phrases about how to be polite in English.
Does it seem like the things you say often cause offense?
How to Be More Polite in English
Being polite in English is an important aspect of communication, especially in professional and social settings. Politeness can help build positive relationships, show respect for others, and avoid misunderstandings. It involves using appropriate language, tone, and body language to convey a respectful and courteous attitude. By learning and applying basic politeness strategies, such as saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” you can improve your communication skills and make a positive impression in any situation.
How to be Polite in English with ESL Image
You say Excuse me when you want to go past somebody. You also say excuse me to somebody you do not know when you want to attract their attention.
- Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the station?
- Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?
Asking for help:
- Excuse me, do you know where the bathroom is?
Getting someone’s attention:
- Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt but I have a quick question.
Apologizing for a mistake:
- Excuse me, I’m sorry I stepped on your foot.
Asking to pass by:
- Excuse me, may I get by?
Interrupting a conversation:
- Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt but I need to ask you something.
Making a request:
- Excuse me, could you please pass the salt?
You say sorry when you need to apologize for something small:
- Sorry, I’m late.
I beg your pardon is a formal expression:
- I beg your pardon! I must have picked up the wrong bag by mistake.
Sorry or I’m sorry is used frequently in Britain English:
- I’m sorry, but do you think you could move your car? (I apologize in advance for any inconvenience.)
In American English Pardon me and Excuse me are used for apologies:
- Excuse me/ pardon me, I didn’t see you there.
In British English you say Pardon? Or Sorry? And in American English Pardon me? Or Excuse me? When you did not hear or understand what somebody said and want them to repeat it:
- Pardon, could you say that again?
- It is not polite to say What? If you have not heard or understood something.
You use the phrase I’m afraid… when you want to apologize because you have to tell somebody something that they may not like:
- I’m afraid there’s been an accident.
- Nina’s not here at the moment, I’m afraid. Can I take a message?
- ‘Do you have any decaffeinated coffee?’ ‘I’m afraid not.’
- ‘Has the last bus gone?’ ‘I’m afraid so.’
I wonder if…
You use expressions which show hesitancy when you are asking somebody to do something or asking for a favor:
- Could you just help me move this box, please?
- I wonder if I could have a copy of that letter.
- Would you mind if I felt a few minutes early today?
- Do you think I could borrow your car this evening?
You say Please when you ask for something. In British English it introduces or ends a request:
- Please could I have the menu?
- Could I have the menu, please?
You also use please when you ask somebody to do something:
- Could you post this letter for me, please?
- Please could you post this letter for me?
When somebody gives you something, or when you buy something or receive information. You are expected to say Thank you or Thanks. Some people may be offended if you say nothing.
It is not usual to say anything in response to Thank you in British English, Although some people may say That’s all right, That’s okay or Don’t mention it. In American English you’re welcome is common.
You say Thank you or Yes. Please when you want to accept something:
- ‘How about another cup of coffee?’ ‘Thank you.’ / ‘Thanks.’ / ‘yes, please.’
You say No, thank you or no, thanks when you want you want to refuse something:
- ‘ Would you like some more cake?’ ‘No, thank you.’ / ‘No, thanks,’
Cheers is often used in informal British English to mean Thank you:
- ‘Here’s that $5 I owe you.’ ‘Oh, cheers.’
You also say Cheers before you have a drink when you are with other people.
Asking a Favor
- Can you give me a hand with this?
- Could you help me for a second?
- Can I ask a favour?
- I wonder if you could help me with this?
- I could do with some help, please.
- I can’t manage. Can you help?
- Give me a hand with this, will you?
- Lend me a hand with this, will you?
- Could you spare a moment?
- I need some help, please.
Asking for Approval
- Do you think it’s all right to do it?
- What do you think about (me doing that)?
- Do you think/reckon I ought to (do it)?
- What would you say if I (did it)?
- Would you approve of (doing something)?
- What is your attitude to the idea of…
- Are you in favour of (me doing something)?
- You are in favour of … aren’t you?
- Do you think anyone would mind if I…
- Do you think it would be really awful if I…
Asking for Directions
How to be polite in English | Image
* Asking for Directions:
- Excuse me! Can you tell me the way to the…?
- Excuse me! How do I get to the…?
- Excuse me! Where the…is?
- Excuse me! Is there a…near here?
- What’s the best way to…?
- Are you from around here?
- I’m looking for this address..
- Are we on the right road for…?
- Is this the right way for…?
- Can you show me on the map?
* Giving Directions
- Go straight ahead.
- Go along the street.
- Turn left.
- Turn right.
- Take the first/ second turning on the left/right
- Cross the street.
- Go past.
- Go through the park/…
- Go across the bridge.
- Go as far as the roundabout….
- The easiest/ quickest way is to..
- Take+ road name
- Stay on + road name for + distance or time.
- It’s on + street name.
- It’s across from.
- It’s opposite.
- It’s near.
- It’s around the corner from.
- It’s this way.
* Where is the…?
- Is it far (from here)?
- Is it a long way?
- How far is it to the airport?
- It’s not far (from here).
- It’s quite close.
- It’s quite a long way.
- It takes a while.
- It’s a long way on foot.
- It’s a long way to walk.
- It’s about a five minute walk.
* How far is it?
- The school is…
- On your right/left.
- Round the corner.
- On the corner of…and…
- Next to the…
- Opposite the…
- Between the…and the…
- In front of the…
* If You can’t Help
- I’m sorry, I don’t know
- Sorry, I’m not from around here.
- I’m afraid I can’t help you.
- You could ask the bus driver.
Asking People to Wait
- Hang on a moment / a mo.
- Give us a second.
- Half a moment / a mo.
- I’ll be right with you.
- Sorry, I’m a bit tied up right now.
- Wait and see.
- You’ll just have to be patient.
- Give me a chance.
- Don’t be so impatient.
- We wish to apologize for the delay to…