Asking for help

How to Speak English without Sounding Rude

Join me on a picnic bench in the park to learn an important lesson on asking questions in English without sounding rude. Today’s we’re looking at how to use introductory phrases (like “I was wondering…”) to make more indirect questions. Direct questions can often be rude and not appropriate for people you don’t know very well. Or, if you’re asking for something that requires a lot of effort, we would also be more indirect with close friends.

I’m splitting the grammar into 4 groups which you can find below. Each group has slightly different rules when adding an introductory phrase before them.

Common Introductory Phrases

  • Do you know…?
  • I was wondering…
  • I wonder…
  • Let me know…
  • I’d like to know…
  • Do you have any idea…?
  • Could you tell me…?

Group 1 - Questions with "be"

Rule: The verb comes after the subject

Direct: Where is the station?

Indirect: Do you know where the station is?

Group 2 - Questions with 'do'

Rule: Remove the ‘do’ in indirect questions

Direct: What do you play?

Indirect: I was wondering what you play

Group 3 - Questions with 'can'

Rule: Use “would it be possible (for)” instead

Direct: Can you help me cross the street?

Indirect: Would it be possible for you to help me cross the street?

Group 4 - Yes/No Questions

Rule: Use “whether” or “if”

Direct: Do you like to play video games?

Indirect: I was wondering whether/if you like playing video games.

Homework

Make these 2 sentences indirect with one of the phrases in the blue box above.

1. What do you do for work?

2. Do you like eating sushi?

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