As we learn English, we may feel that we are being polite, but the words or intonation we use says otherwise. Politeness is a big factor in asking for help in English and if you don’t do it right, you may find that no one wants to give you a hand. In many languages, asking for help is a lot more direct and the way you say something really isn’t taken into account. But being polite in English is one skill that is very important to master, especially if you want to live, work or study abroad. See below for some ways to sound more polite when asking for help.  

I want help.

Spell that please.

Can you carry my bag?

Pass me the pencil.

All of the phrases above are asking for some form of help. The main problem is that they are all too direct. So how can we make them sound more polite?

Could / Would you do me a favour?

Sometimes we want to be polite and ask someone if they are willing to help out in the first place. If they don’t have the time, or if they are busy doing something else, we might not want to ask for their help. In this case, you can safely judge a person’s willingness to help by asking them this question before the actual favour is asked.

Could I ask / bother / trouble you + infinitive?

You can use this structure to ask for help politely, for example: 

Could I ask you to help me with my English homework?

Could I bother you for a few minutes of your time?

Could I trouble you to help me with these boxes?

Could I ask you to spell that please?

Could you / Would you + base form of verb + please?

This is another structure you can use. Take a look at some examples below:

Could you help me with my homework please?

Would you carry this for me please?

You can also move please around in the sentence.

Could you please help me with my homework?

Would you please carry this for me?

Could you please spell that for me?

Could you + possibly + verb?

If you want to sound extra polite, you could add in the word possibly.

Could you possibly lend me some money?

Would you mind + verb-ing?

Yet another way to be polite. You can try this out in any number of situations.

Would you mind waiting five minutes? I have to make a phone call.

Would you mind paying for my lunch? I’ll pay you back later!

Would you mind taking a photo of us?

See also

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