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Session 48

Phil explains how you can be less direct and more polite in this English In A Minute.

Activity 1

Using different tenses to be polite

How can different tenses make you sound more polite? Phil explains how you can be less direct and more polite in this English In A Minute.

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Phil

We can use a past tense to talk politely about something in the present.

In English, you can sometimes use past tenses to be less direct andmore polite.

I wanted to ask you something.

I hoped you'd make lunch.

This isn't the past - 'I want to ask you something now' and 'I still hope you'll make my lunch' but it's less direct.

Using a continuous tense can seem less permanent and also less direct.

I'm thinking you should buy the ingredients.

I'm not planning to help you.

To really distance yourself, you can do both:

I was hoping you were going to make dessert.

I was expecting you to do the washing up.

I'm being unreasonable, but I'm using past and continuous tenses as distancing to sound polite while I do it - and now i'm really hungry.

 

Using different tenses to be polite

We can use a past tense to talk politely about something in the present. This is less direct and more polite.

I thought you'd go to the shops.

I wanted to ask you if you'd make dinner.

Using a continuous tense can seem less permanent and also less direct.

I'm thinking it'd be better if you went.

I'm hoping you'll do my work for me.

We can use the past continuous to distance yourself even more.

I was hoping you'd lend your car

I was thinking about asking him to get the spare pen.

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