Speaking Skills: Being Polite
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack and Rich focus on being polite and the words and expressions you should use to show politeness. They look at some different situations where it is important to be polite and what you should say and what you shouldn't say. Your task is to look at some impolite or rude sentences and make them more polite using some of the polite expressions we introduce in this podcast. As always, we also have a new football phrase for you to guess. Enjoy!
Speaking Skills - Being Polite
Jack: Excuse me Mr Referee...
Rich: Yes, number six. What seems to be the problem?
Jack: I was just wondering if you could possibly reconsider that penalty decision.
Rich: I’m ever so sorry but I’m afraid that won’t be possible.
Jack: Nevermind, I just thought I’d ask.
Rich: Not a problem number six. If there is anything else I can help you with during the match, I’m here to listen.
Jack: Thank you sir. Have a good game.
Rich: Enjoy the game number six.
Welcome - Being polite
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich
Jack: and I’m Jack
Rich: and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Jack: What’s happening this week, Rich?
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to help you with your speaking skills and more specifically we’re going to help you in situations when you need to speak in a polite way.
Jack: That’s right. It’s not only about saying please and thank you. There are lots of different words and phrases that you can use to show politeness and we’re going to look at some of them in this podcast.
Rich: In the opening section, Jack and I roleplayed a situation of a player and a referee talking on the pitch. That was a joke, but it is important for players to be polite and respectful to referees or they might get a yellow card!
Jack: And, in this podcast, we’re going to look at some different situations where it is important to be polite and what you should say and what you shouldn’t say.
Rich: Your task is to change some rude sentences to polite sentences.
Jack: Don’t forget, there is more information about the language we use on the page below and activities to help you understand.
Rich: Make sure you listen to the end of the podcast because we have another football phrase for you as well.
Jack: In this section, we’re going to roleplay a situation where we need to be polite.
Rich: We’re going to do the roleplay twice. The first time we’re not going to be very polite and the second time we’re going to be much more polite.
Jack: We want you to think about the language we use and how we talk. Why is the second conversation better?
Rich: What’s the situation, Jack?
Jack: Let’s imagine we’re in a shop. We’re in Liverpool football club’s club shop. You’re the customer and I’m the shop worker. Let’s imagine you’re buying a Liverpool shirt.
Rich: That’s lucky. I want a new Liverpool shirt.
Jack: We’re not really going to the Liverpool shop, Rich. It’s a roleplay. We’re imagining!
Rich: OK, yes I know. Let’s start.
Jack: What are you doing?
Rich: Err … Looking.
Jack: Looking at what?
Rich: Looking at football shirts. How much is this one?
Jack: Dunno. What’s it say?
Rich: 59 pounds
Jack: There you go then.
Rich: Can I try it on?
Jack: In the changing rooms.
Rich: Where are the changing rooms?
Jack: See the sign over there. It says changing rooms. What size have you got there?
Rich: Err .. medium.
Jack: You might want try the large.
Rich: Hmmm ... thanks.
Rich: OK, it fits. The medium fits! Can I pay by card?
Jack: No. The machine’s broken.
Rich: Oh for f...
Jack: Right, so I’m sure you already know that there were a few problems with that roleplay, but what were the problems - apart from buying a Liverpool shirt.
Rich: Well, there were three main problems. The first was that both people were too direct. Questions like ‘Where are the changing rooms?’ ‘What are you doing?’ and ‘How much is this?’ are direct and can sound rude or impolite.
Jack: The second problem was saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Neither of us said please or thank you once in that roleplay. It is important. You sound rude if you don’t use those two words.
Rich: And finally, the third problem was intonation. Our intonation was very flat and we sounded rude and maybe even a little aggressive.
Jack: Shall we have another go?
Rich: At the roleplay?
Jack: Yes. This time we will give a good example. We want you to listen to the way we ask questions, to the please and thank yous and to our intonation.
Rich: OK, I’m ready.
Jack: Good morning. Is there anything I can help you with today?
Rich: Not at the moment, thank you. I’m just looking.
Jack: No problem. Just let me know if there is anything I can help you with.
Rich: Thanks, I will.
Rich: Excuse me. I was wondering if you could help me.
Jack: Yes, certainly.
Rich: Could you tell me how much this Liverpool shirt is, please?
Jack: Hold on a minute, I’ll just check … this one is £59.99.
Rich: Great. Would you mind if I tried it on?
Jack: No problem at all. The changing rooms are just at the end of the shop. In the corner. Can you see them?
Rich: This is a medium, would it be alright if I took a large as well.
Jack: Of course, take as many as you like ...
Rich: The medium fits really well. I’d like to buy it, please.
Jack: No problem. That will be £59.99, sir.
Rich: Could I pay by card?
Jack: I’m afraid our card machine is broken at the moment. I’m really sorry. There is a cash point just across the road if you need it.
Rich: That’s alright. I think I have the cash.
Jack: Lovely, I’m really sorry about that.
Rich: No worries. Have a nice day!
Jack: Thank you very much. You too.
Rich: That was much better. Much more polite and I got a new Liverpool shirt too.
Jack: No, you didn’t. It was a roleplay - just us two imagining.
Rich: Ah yes, of course, I know that. Anyway, the conversation was much more successful.
Jack: Yes, it was. It was more successful and much more polite. In this conversation, we included the right level of politeness for the situation.
Rich: We said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot. This is always important, especially when you are speaking to people you don’t know and when you are asking for something in a shop, a cafe or in a station.
Jack: We also used indirect questions and phrases when we were speaking.
Rich: For example, instead of saying ‘how much is this’ I said ‘Could you tell me how much this is, please’
Jack: In this example, to be indirect, we added ‘could you tell me’. We could use other phrases such as ‘would you mind telling me’ or ‘would it be possible for you to tell me’. But, this would probably be too much for this situation.
Rich: For everyday requests using ‘could’ is polite. We might use ‘would you mind’ or ‘would it be possible’ when we’re asking for something really special.
Jack: For example, a boss might say to an employee ‘would it be possible for you to work a few extra hours this week’.
Rich: Another indirect way or polite way of asking for something is by using ‘if. In the roleplay, I said ‘I was wondering if you could help me.’
Jack: The direct version of this question is ‘Can you help me?’ - a yes/no question. Again to be more polite or indirect ‘can’ changes to ‘could’ and we have an opening expression like ‘I was wondering’ or ‘It would be wonderful’ or ‘I would appreciate it’
Rich: One other thing you might have seen is that the verb comes before the subject in indirect questions. So, in direct questions we say How much is this? But in an indirect question we say ‘Could you tell me how much this is, please?’
Jack: In the roleplay, we also looked at some expressions for saying ‘no’ in a polite way. A direct no can be impolite so it’s better to apologise and give an explanation. I said ‘I’m afraid our card machine is broken at the moment’.
Rich: The expression ‘I’m afraid’ is another way of saying ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I’m afraid I can’t’ is an alternative way of saying ‘no’ and is much more polite than just ‘no!’
Jack: Before we finish, there is one more thing to think about: intonation. This is how our voice sounds.
Rich: To sound polite our voice goes up at different points in a question. We don’t want to sound too flat.
Jack: For example, we say ‘I was wondering if you could help me’ rather than ‘I was wondering if you could help me’.
Rich: It’s good to practise your intonation. Have another listen to the second roleplay and try to copy how we sound.
Jack: Right, so our three main bits of advice to sound more polite are:
Rich: Number one: Use indirect questions and polite expressions such as could, I was wondering if and I’m afraid I can’t.
Jack: Number two: Practise your intonation; don’t sound too flat, make your voice go up and down when you’re speaking.
Rich: Number three: Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ often. This is the most important bit of advice and the easiest for you to do!
Jack: This week, our task for you is correct some rude sentences and make them more polite. Try to use as many of the polite expressions from this podcast as you can. You can find the sentences we want you to change further down this page.
Can you work out this week’s football phrase?
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: Yes, I have, but first, last week’s football phrase. The phrase was capacity crowd. An event has a capacity crowd when it has sold all its tickets and there are no seats left - it’s a sell out. There have been capacity crowds at football stadiums across the country for the new season.
Rich: It was a really difficult one so a special well done to Ahmed Adam from Sudan and Liubomyr from Ukraine for getting it right! Let’s have an easy one this week!
Jack: OK, then, an easy one. This week’s football phrase is ******** ******. The ******** ****** closes next Thursday. When it closes clubs won’t be able to sign any new players until January.
Rich: I think that’s a bit easier. Let’s see if we can get lots of people to answer this week!
Jack: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below.
Rich: And don’t forget to listen to our new round-up show called ‘This Week’. Every Monday we talk about everything that happened in the Premier League that weekend!
Jack: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
I was just wondering if you could possibly reconsider that penalty decision.
Our intonation was very flat and we sounded rude and maybe a little aggressive.
There were a few more tricky words connected to being polite in the podcast. Do you know what they all mean? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words.
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about three things that will help you sound more polite. The three things are:
- Being indirect and using more polite expressions
- Saying please and thank you more frequently
- Improving your intonation
To be more polite, we often use language that is indirect. Take a look at these two questions from the podcast. Which is direct and which is indirect?
How much is this shirt?
Could you tell me how much this shirt is?
The second sentence is indirect and also more polite. The first question is direct and, although it is not rude or impolite, it is better to use indirect questions when you are talking to strangers and in shops, restaurants or hotels etc. There are many expressions and phrases that you can use to speak in an indirect way. Take a look at this table. Can you think of any more polite expressions?
Can you open the window?
Would you mind opening the window?
Can you help me?
I was wondering if you could help me.
|Can I try this on?||Would it be alright if I tried this shirt on?|
In the podcast, Jack and Rich also spoke about saying 'no (refusing), apologizing or saying something isn't possible in a polite way. This is often important because you don't want to be rude or to hurt someone's feelings. Take a look at the examples from the podcast. Are these expressions new for you?
I'm afraid our card machine is broken at the moment.
I'm really sorry about that.
Take a look at the following activity that includes more indirect expressions that were used in the podcast and some other phrases too. Can you write the right answer?
What is intonation?
Intonation is how your voice goes up and down when you are speaking. Intonation is very important in English because it can tell the listener how the person is feeling. From listening to a person's voice, someone can tell if the speaker is angry, sad, or if the speaker is being polite. In the podcast, Rich and Jack gave two example conversations. In the first conversation, their intonation was very flat. Their voices didn't change very much. Because of this, they sounded rude and a little aggressive. In the second conversation, their voices went up and down much more. The intonation changed a lot. They sounded much more polite.
Activity 3Listen to the second conversation again and notice how Jack and Rich's voices go up and down. Try to copy what they say and, more importantly, how they say it.
Don't be rude!!
In the podcast, Rich and Jack roleplayed two dialogues in Liverpool football club's club shop. In the first roleplay, both of them were rude and impolite, but in the second they were much more polite and it was a successful shopping experience.Your task is to change some impolite/rude/direct sentences and questions into more polite indirect sentences and questions. Try to use some of the expressions we used in the podcast. Here are the sentences we want you to change:
Make these sentences more polite:
- Where is the football stadium?
- What time is it?
- Can I go now?
- I'm not doing that. I need to go home.
- What do you want?
Write your answers in the comments section below.
What do you think?
In this week’s podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about the language we should use when we want to be polite.
Do you think it's important to be polite? Is there a specific way to show politeness in your language?
Is it important to be polite on the football pitch? When? How?
Look at the impolite questions and sentences in the task above and re-write them in a polite way.
Remember to write your guess at this week's football phrase, too!