The holidays are a time for shopping, which includes asking many questions. “Can I” or “May I” are great . . . but they do get a little boring when you use them often, and they are not the most polite phrases. To help you navigate through conversation during the holidays, we have a list of some of the expressions you can use to ask politely for things in English. How many of these do you use on a regular basis?
How to make a polite request in English
May I please + base verb . . . ?
- May I please try this on in a different color?
Do you mind if I + base verb . . . ?
- Do you mind if I try this on?
Would you mind + ing . . . ?
- Would you mind showing me the item on the top shelf?
- Would it be alright if I asked for these to be gift wrapped?
Would it be OK if I + base verb or past simple . . . ?*
- Would it be OK if I ordered this for rush delivery?
Would you mind if I + base verb or past simple . . . ?*
- Would you mind if I left these bags here while I shopped?
Would it be possible for me + infinitive . . . ?
- Would it be possible for me to send this to Europe?
*In most cases, the expression “would it be OK if” is followed by the past simple. However, the present simple is sometimes used as well, and you might see examples of this in English grammar books.
Can you think of ways to ask for these things?
- Tasting a sample of a cheese, or wine, or other food item
- Looking at items that are cheaper/more expensive
- Asking for a gift receipt
- Asking for gift wrapping
- Returning an item that is the wrong size
- Trying on a clothing item
- Exchanging an item for another size or color
- Paying with a debit or credit card
CISL would like to wish each and every one of our students a happy and safe holiday season. We hope that the holidays provide you with even more chances to practice your English skills while participating in the holiday traditions of the U.S.!
Cover photo licensed from Shutterstock.