How to be polite in English!
In English there are many ways we show politeness and respect and, despite what people think, the use of sir and ma'am is not an important one.
These words are used far more rarely than students think.In Britain it is unusual for someone in the street to say Excuse me, sir -
The word please is used with almost every request in Britain.
Many visitors don't realise that, when they go into a cafe and say A coffee or I want a coffee or even Can I have a coffee? (which may be perfectly all right in their own language) they appear to be impolite, and cannot understand it when the person serving spills the coffee all over them!
Just adding a simple please would make an immediate difference and possibly even merit a smile -
Let's look at polite ways of asking questions and favours of people:
Instead of a direct question we often use Can you and Could you before we say what we want. Look at these examples, which are from a normal conversation at home between husband and wife: Can you carry this bag into the house please? Could you move the table against the wall, please?
Could is a little more polite than Can but both questions contain the word please. Carry this bag into the house or Move the table up against the wall are possible, but English speakers would know when they could make requests in this way without causing offence, and the correct intonation is important.If you are not a native English speaker, then to use Can and Could to introduce a request is wise.
It's courteous and makes a good impression. In fact, you can be even more polite: Sorry -
Or Would it be all right if I took this chair, please? This is a common way of asking politely for something. But you have to start with Would and then put the other verb in the Past.Now look at the answer to the request Sorry, would you mind if I closed the window, please? No -
Incidentally, but importantly:
If you are late, for example for a meeting, or your English class, or you accidentally tread on someone’s toe, you should say “sorry!” and not “excuse me!”
Sorry means I apologise (for being late, or treading on your toe). You only say “excuse me” when, for example, you are trying to get to your seat in the cinema, or squeeze past someone who is blocking your path.
Excuse me means I would like you to move!