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Session 3

Getting messages on the phone can sometimes be nerve-wracking. In this session, we catch up with Amith on his first day. Three people have left messages on his phone - but who called him and why? Were they polite and did they ask any indirect questions? Let's find out.

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Session 3 score

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Amith's phone messages

I wonder if you could help me...

In Session 1 we followed Amith as he started a day working with BBC Learning English. He had some problems and had to ask different people for help. Now some other people have left phone messages asking their own questions.

Listen to Amith's messages and see if you can answer these questions:

  • Is the first message about computer problems or printer problems?
  • Is the second message about going to get food or going to get a coffee?
  • Is the third message about a party or work?

Listen to the audio and try the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Er, hello. Er. This is Bill from Technology Support. This is a message for Amith Rahman. Sorry it’s taken so long to sort out your computer problems. Could you let us know if you’re now able to log on OK? We’ve also had a request from Human Resources as well – do you know if you have been given access to all the folders on the shared drive? If not you’ll need to come along to Technology Support. Do you know where our office is? It’s on the sixth floor. I wonder if you could come along to see us later, just to make sure everything is going OK. Thanks a lot. Bye.

Hey Amith, how’s it going? Heard you were still having trouble with the computers. Anyway, hope it’s all fixed now. Some of us are going down to the canteen in a bit – would you like to join us? If you get this message in time, just let me know!

Hello, is this Amith? Oh, it’s a voicemail. OK, leave a message. Yeah. Hi, Amith. My name’s Helen. We didn’t get introduced earlier. Hope you’re having a good first day. I just wanted to see if you’d be interested in helping me out on a project I’m working on. I wonder if you’re free to have a chat about it a bit later. It’s going to be really exciting. Could you let me know when you might be free to talk about it? Thanks a lot. Bye.

Did you get the questions right?

  • The first message was about logging on and accessing folders: computer problems.
  • The second message was about going to the canteen for lunch: going to get food.
  • The third message was about a project: it was about work, not a party.

Time for a recap...

We use indirect questions when we want to be formal and polite or when we don't know the person we are asking very well. We can start indirect questions in a few different ways:

  • Could you tell me...
  • Do you know...
  • I wonder...

In indirect questions the word order in the second part is like a statement. Compare it with a direct question to see the difference:

  • Are you able to log on to the computer?
  • Could you tell me if you are able to log on?

To do

Who said what and how did they say it? Answer these questions to test what you understood from the phone messages and what you know about indirect questions.

Understanding Amith's messages

5 Questions

Choose the best answer for each of the questions about the phone messages

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End of Session 3

A short one today! You've had a chance to listen to some more indirect questions and you've answered some questions to check your knowledge. We're looking at being polite in Session 4, so go out and practise your indirect questions with your friends - let us know how you get on with it on our Facebook page.

Session Grammar

  • Indirect questions help us to sound more formal or polite.

    Direct question: What time is it?

    Indirect question: Could you tell me what time it is?

    Indirect questions are introduced by different phrases like:

    • Can/Could you tell me...?
    • Can/Could you show me...?
    • Would you mind telling me...?
    • Have you any idea...?
    • I wonder...

    This first part of an indirect question is then followed by a question word or if or whether and then the information we want to know.

    • Direct question: What time is it?
      Indirect question: Could you tell me what time it is?
    • Could you tell me what you're doing?
    • Could you tell me who is in charge?
    • I wonder when we're having dinner.
    • Could you show me where the station is?
    • Have you any idea how I use this smartphone?
    • Could you tell me if you're free?
    • I wonder whether you can meet tomorrow.

    The word order in the second part of the question is the same as statement word order: subject then verb.

    Direct question: What time is it?

    Indirect question: Could you tell me what time it is?

Session Vocabulary

  • Human Resources
    the department of a company or organisation that deals with hiring staff and administration

    a restaurant provided by an organisation like a college or company for the people who work or study there

    an electronic system for storing telephone messages