Speaking Politely in English
When speaking a language that is not your mother-tongue it can be nerve-wracking to not know if you are being polite or not. Sometimes you want to say something politely, but unintentionally may sound rude. Don't worry, most English speakers will be able to know that you are not a native speaker. They will understand if you are not 100% polite with your answer or request, but we can practice and try to be more polite next time. Keep these polite words, phrases, and expressions handy and let's practice being extra polite in our comments below.
When we say “Hello,” we are in the safe zone. This is OK to say anytime with anyone.
When we say “Hi,” this is rather common and in the safe zone as well. Hello would be a slightly better choice though.
Saying Good morning, afternoon, or evening – You're totally in the safe zone.
When we say “Hey,” this is only OK with friends and maybe close family. It's very informal.
Simply “Goodbye,” will do. Or you could say: Have a nice/good morning, afternoon, or evening. Or even “have a nice day,” would work.
For a more informal way, you could say: See ya later, see ya, catch ya later...
This is OK with friends and family only.
Please and thank you:
This one should be an easy one for you. “Please” and “Thank you” were likely some of the first words you learned in English, so let's not forget to use them. When in doubt, just use it anyway. When you ask for something, say “Please” at the end and when you receive it, say “Thank you.” To be extra nice, if someone says “thank you” to you, you should reply with “you're welcome.”
Other ways to express “Thank you:” Thank you so much, Thank you very much, Thanks , Thanks a lot
Other ways to say “You're welcome:” Don't mention it (informal), My pleasure (you were happy to do it).
Perhaps you accidentally bumped into someone, or stepped on someones foot. Don't just stand there, Apologize! You can say: I'm so sorry, I'm sorry, Sorry!
If someone is in your way and you need them to move, or if you are trying to get someone's attention you can say: Pardon me, excuse me, sorry to bother you....
When you are in a business situation, meeting someone's parents, or speaking and meeting with someone older than you, we have titles that we like to use to sound more polite.
Now these titles are used to address people and they are separated by gender. It will also depend if you already know their name or not.
If you are speaking with a man and you don't know his name, and he is older than you (other wise, it could be an insult!) it would be polite to refer to him as sir. If you know their name, you may refer to them as mister (Mr.) with their last name. Example: Mr. Brown. (pronounced Mister Brown)
If you are speaking to a female and you don't know her name you may call her ma'am. (pronounced mam) Now again, use this if she is older than you. It could be even more of an insult to a lady if you use ma'am and she is very young. Ladies are a bit more sensitive to their age. If you know her name then you would use Mrs. (Misses) or Ms. (Miss) and then her last name. Example: Mrs. Brown or Ms. Johns. The difference is if she is married. Mrs. indicates she is married and Ms. means she is not. If this is for an important meeting of some sort, business situations.... Then find out before hand so you don't get it wrong.
Did you know all these rules about speaking politely in English?
Do you have a story where you forgot to be polite and someone misunderstood you or thought you were rude?
Is our way of speaking politely similar to your language or much more complicated?
How would you greet your girlfriend or boyfriends parents for the first time?
Your professor at school?
Your own family?
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