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How can I speak more politely in English at work?

Updated: Feb 11




Instead of:

Where is the meeting room?

What time does the meeting start?

When is the deadline?


Remember!

With polite questions, we change the question structure to an indirect question structure.


Would you happen to know where the meeting room is?

Would you mind if I asked when the deadline is?

Would you mind telling me what time the meeting starts?


Other options of asking politely could start with .......


  • I was wondering…

  • Do you have any idea…

  • I’d like to know…

  • Would it be possible…

  • Is there any chance…

  • Could you tell me…

  • Do you know…


Direct And Indirect Questions In English: Examples


Direct: Where is the meeting room?

Indirect: Could you tell me where the meeting room is?

In indirect questions with is/are, the verb (is) comes after the subject (the meeting room).


Direct What time does the conference start?

Indirect: Do you know what time the conference starts?

In indirect questions, we don’t use the auxiliary verbs do/does/did. Also, you can see that the verb is “start” in the direct question, and “starts” in the indirect question.


Direct: Why did you join this company?

Indirect: I was wondering why you joined this company.

Again, there is no auxiliary verb did in the indirect question. In fact, this indirect question isn’t even a question – it’s more of a statement that invites the other person to give more information.


Direct: How has he managed to draw up so many documents so quickly?

Indirect: Do you have any idea how he’s managed draw up so many documents so quickly?

The auxiliary verbs have and has can be used in both the direct and indirect questions – but in the direct question, “has” comes before the subject (he), and in the indirect question, “has” comes after the subject.


Direct: How much does this deal cost?

Indirect: I’d like to know how much this deal costs.

To form the indirect question, remove does and change “cost” to “costs.”


Direct: Can you finish the project by tomorrow?

Indirect: Would it be possible for you to finish the project by tomorrow?

For direct questions with can, we can use the phrase “would it be possible…” to make it indirect.


Direct: Can we change the meeting to Thursday?

Indirect: Is there any chance we could change the meeting to Thursday?

“Is there any chance…” is another option for forming indirect questions with can.


Yes/No Direct Questions –> “If” In Indirect Questions

If the direct question is a “yes or no” question (it has no question word such as what, who, when, where, why, or how), then the indirect question will have if.


Direct: Does Paul like giving presentations? Indirect: Do you know if Tom likes giving presentations?

Direct: Are your colleagues joining us for Lunch? Indirect: Could you tell me if your colleagues joining us for Lunch?

Direct: Do they speak English? Indirect: I was wondering if they speak English.

Direct: Has Mary ever worked abroad? Indirect: Do you have any idea if Mary’s ever worked abroad?

Direct: Do you plan on traveling on a business trip this week? Indirect: I’d like to know if you plan on traveling on a business trip this week.


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