Asking questions in a polite way

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ashbury, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. ashbury

    ashbury Member

    Shanghai, China
    Hi all,

    If I'm going to ask someone, whom I'm not quite familiar with, about some knowledge or information I don't know, and I wish to ask in a very polite way to show my respect, then, how should I ask?

    Shall I say " can you enlighten me ...." or " can you teach me.... ?"

    thank you!
  2. mgcrules Senior Member

    English - Australia
    You could also use "can you help me understand...?".
    It's always good to use please as well. :)
  3. JoanTaber Senior Member

    New York
    English Northeast USA
    Hello Ashbury,
    Your suggestions are just fine.
    You could also ask, "Will you please tell me (show me, explain)...?"
    "Will you be so kind as to explain....?"
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I'm sorry, ashbury, but I would find both your suggestions odd. The usual way to make a request polite is to add the word "please"; you might also try a conditional tense. I would say:

    Could you please tell me who King Aethelred the Unready was?
    Could you please explain to me how a steam engine works?
  5. ashbury

    ashbury Member

    Shanghai, China
    Thank you!
    I've learned that "please" is a very effective word :)

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