“You HAVE to be joking.”
“I’ve been doing this wrong for 20 years. WHY didn’t anyone tell me? I really thought I was being polite.”
These are just some of the reactions my clients give me when I discuss formality in English with them.
You see, many of my clients have a first language with a built-in formal and informal way of saying ‘you’.
Think Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Italian, etc.
In all of these languages, it’s clear from the start if you are being polite enough, as you can choose either a formal or informal ‘you’, and the grammar is adapted automatically.
In English, we don’t have that.
We only have ‘you’.
So how do we package formality?
We use other words.
For example, let’s do a quick check to see how polite you are: 😉
Which question is more polite?
1. Could you please help me?
2. Could you help me please?
3. Can you help me, please?
4. Would you please help me?
5. Please, would you help me?
I’ll give you another second to think about it – it’s that tricky!
The correct answer is #2.
Did you get it right?
Most people don’t.
(I did 51 corporate intakes in April for my Rock Your Business English program, and 47 people got this one wrong.)
Let me explain quickly why #2 is correct.
It’s because it has ‘please’ at the end of the sentence, and ‘could’ is more polite than ‘can’.
Many people think that putting ‘please’ before the verb is more formal.
However, this is often used to express irritation or frustration.
(Say it ‘Would you PLEASE help me’ out loud, and emphasize the word ‘please’, and then you’ll know what I mean.)
Other people think starting with the word ‘please’ is the most polite.
However, that makes it more of a command – not a question.
Now we know.
I have identified 10 degrees of formality in English, and I share them all (with helpful tips and tricks on how to never mix them up again) in my English Elevator program, which starts in June. I have designed this program to be absolutely full of so many insights to help you not only become more aware of all the different possibilities in grammar, style, tone, writing, and vocabulary, but to also expand your comfort zone and help your confidence skyrocket by the end of June!
More awareness means better choices.
Better choices means more impact.
More impact means you are a badass in English.
So let’s make it happen!
If you’d like to work with me for 4 weeks, with personal feedback, lifetime access to my online learning community, with 8 hours of masterclasses, Q&A, and over 20 workbooks to keep forever, click here to find out more. We only have space for 5 people, and I’m keeping the group super small to give everyone personal feedback and answer all your questions.
I’ll hold the English Elevator doors open for you, but don’t wait too long!
I expect it to sell out very soon.
Let’s get your English to the next level in my famous fun, fresh, and fabulous way!
See you on the inside,