Consulting 3.4 Winning quick interactions: Requests

This lesson will cover requests using casual and formal language. It will help you ask for various things with fluency and confidence.


Using the right level and style of request will encourage the other person to grant it. 

Warm Up: 
  1. How many different ways can you ask for help?
  2. What's the most casual, and what's the most formal way?

A. When making requests, it's important to pay attention to the subject and make sure the verb works with it. The first section is all about actions you do. Discuss which phrases are more casual and which are more formal:

  1. I was wondering if I could...
  2. Would it be possible to...
  3. Is there any chance that I could...
  4. Would it be all right if I...
  5. Can I...
  6. Would you mind if I...

Situation: You are in the lunch room. Your phone just died. The only other person there is an English-speaking colleague. 

B. This section is about actions the other person will do. Discuss which phrases are more casual and which are more formal::

  1. Is there any chance you could...
  2. Would you mind...
  3. Could you... 
  4. I was wondering if you could... 
  5. I would appreciate your ... as soon as possible.

Situation: You had to make some changes to a few key client documents. You need the new ones printed out. You are at the client office.

Using "we" is a good idea to establish teaming. What are a few requests you can use with "we"? 

C. Using "please": There are three places that you can put please in a sentence: 1) at the end; 2) before the verb; and, 3) at the beginning. Take a look at the requests below and discuss the nuances with your teacher. 

  1. Could you help me with this dataset, please?—This is the most typical usage. Ending with please leaves a nice impression and is seen as kind and polite.
  2. Could you please help me with this dataset?—Putting please before the verb is slightly stronger than putting it at the end. This help might be more necessary than the above usage—perhaps the speaker has hit a serious roadblock. 
  3. Please could you help me with this dataset?—This has a strong, sometimes negative nuance, perhaps frustration or begging. However, if the request is very small, then starting with please is acceptable; for instance, "Please pass the salt."

Consider the following situations and make the most appropriate request: 

  1. You need a simple document from the client. Ask them to bring it to this afternoon's meeting.
  2. Your colleague is stepping out for coffee. Ask them to bring one back for you.
  3. You are out with friends for drinks. The waiter hands you a glass and you realize you forgot to ask for ice in it. Ask now. 
  4. a. The meeting is scheduled to finish at 7 p.m., but you have to leave a little early to make it to the airport for your international flight. What request would you make?
    b. You look outside and it's snowing. It's going to take you longer to get to the airport. You need to leave now. What request would you make?
  5. You are checking into a hotel. All your colleagues are on the 9th floor, but you have just been assigned to the 4th floor. You'd like to be near them, but you can see the hotel is very busy. Ask to be moved to a room near your colleagues.
  6. You have been working all night fixing a problem caused by a junior associate. You don't want him to make such a mistake again. What request would you make?