“The best advice that was given to me was that I had to be 10 times smarter, braver, and more polite to be equal. So I did.” — Samuel L. Jackson


Have you ever been told that you’re too direct, demanding, or aggressive when speaking English? When you are just getting started learning English, your main concern is to make yourself understood (to be intelligible).  


English is full of little niceties and formalities, and ignoring them can make you come across as rude or unprofessional. Moreover, it is important to make the best possible impression by speaking politely in some formal situations, such as job interviews, meetings with clients or colleagues, appointments with doctors, or simply when requesting help or information. 


Let’s explore a few expressions that will come in handy when communicating with colleagues, clients, or superiors in a business environment and everyday life.


1- Making a request

In English, when we ask for something or ask someone to do something, we often use the modal verbs like could, might, should, and would to sound more polite. You should avoid giving commands and phrase your requests less directly, usually in the form of a question. For example, a waiter in a restaurant will be more inclined to treat you well if you say “I would like a cheeseburger, please,” instead of saying the blunter “I want a cheeseburger,” or, even worse, an imperative: “Give me a cheeseburger.”

Other examples:

“Could you please send me the information by Monday at the latest?”

“Would you be so kind as to pass me that Pendrive?”

“Do you think you could turn the music down a little, please?”

“I would be most grateful if you could give me a lift to the party.”

“Would you happen to know where the train station is?”

“Would you mind telling me the time, please?”


2- Disagreeing politely

If you have to express disagreement, it’s important to show that you respect the person’s opinion and just happen to think differently. Try using the following phrases to soften your tone and express your opinion without the risk of offending anyone:

“I understand what you’re saying, but on the other hand….”

“You could be right, but don’t forget that….”

“I see what you mean, but….”

“I respect your point, but….”

“I’m afraid I don’t see it that way.”

“I’m not so sure about that.”


3- Turning down an invitation

Saying no to people is not always easy, so the next time you have to refuse an invitation, these polite expressions will help you avoid hurting the person’s feelings:

“I would love to, but….”

“I’m afraid I can’t. I…”

“Thanks so much for asking me, but….”

“Unfortunately, I can’t because….”

“That sounds great, but….”


4- Avoiding ‘finger-pointing’ statements

When dealing with a problem, coming across as rude can worsen the situation. To sound more diplomatic and less aggressive, focus on ‘I’ and ‘we’ instead of ‘you,’ which can come across as accusatory, and use the passive voice:

“You do not understand me.” / “Perhaps I am not making myself clear.” 

“You broke my favorite mug!” / “My favorite mug has been broken!”

“You said you were going to complete the task today.” / “It was agreed that you’d complete the task today.”



📌Polite: having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.

📌Equal: being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value.

📌Rude: offensively impolite or ill-mannered.

📌Disagreement: lack of consensus or approval.

📌Straightforward: uncomplicated and easy to do or understand.


📌Cover up: an attempt to prevent people’s discovering the truth about a serious mistake or crime.

“Kevin coughed to cover up his laugh.” 

📌Gloss over: to treat or describe (something, such as a serious problem or error) as unimportant.

“Ronald glossed over the accident because he didn’t want to argue with his brother.”


📌Be (as) good as gold: to behave very well.

📌Keep your nose clean: an important person, a leader (usually about business).

Related Articles:

📌Expressing your Opinion https://www.englishpriority.com/expressing-your-opinion/

📌 How to ask for people’s opinions https://www.englishpriority.com/how-to-ask-for-peoples-opinions/


📌 Bad manners in American culture https://www.englishpriority.com/bad-manners-in-american-culture/


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