Lesson Notes: Vocabulary you need to sound polite in English

Being polite and showing your manners is an important part of communication in all languages and cultures. So it is beneficial to learn a few polite phrases and when you are learning a new language. If you are planning to travel to Canada for vacation, work, or study you will quickly realize that Canadians are very polite.

1. Please

We are going to start off with a tricky one because please can either show extremely good manners or can come off as a little bit demanding if overused.

Tricks for using “please”
Use please for small requests.
“Can I have a glass of water please?”

Use please to respond to a question.
“Would you like a cupcake?”
“Yes, please.

2. You’re Welcome

In Canada “you’re welcome” is expected as a response to a “thank you”. So “you’re welcome” should become your automatic response whenever anyone says thank you. You should say thank you if someone does a small favour for you, like holding a door open.

Extra tip: Another more casual phrase for you’re welcome is “no problem!”

3. May I?

This phrase is extremely polite and is very nice to use with people you don’t know very well.

May I use your washroom?

4. Excuse me

This is a great phrase to memorize because you will it a lot when you are out and about. When you are out shopping and you can’t find something you can use excuse me to get someone’s attention.

“Excuse me, do you know where the milk is?”

You can also use excuse me to get around someone who might be standing in your way. In Canada, it is more common to ask the person to move. Of course, it would be impolite to say “move out of my way” so we usually say something like “sorry, can I squeeze by you?”

5. Sorry

You know that this one had to be on the list. The word sorry is a bit of a national obsession in Canada. Even the Americans love to poke fun at our overuse of the word.

In Canada, sorry is not always used as an apology. It can also be used as a substitution for “excuse me”.

“Sorry, do have any of these pants in size 6?”

6. I would like

In some languages, it is common to express what you want directly with the verb “to want”. This makes sense but in English, we complicate it a little bit. In English telling a waiter that you want water will come off as impolite. It is more polite to say “I would like water.”

In English we use the verb to want to express things that we can influence:

“I want to go to bed.”
“I want to watch that movie.”

When we are asking someone to do something for us we are a little more indirect. Below is an example to illustrate this.

Impolite and demanding: “I want you to get me some water.”
Polite: “I would like some water.”

7. Would you like a hand?

This is a useful phrase because it is customary to ask someone if they would like before you jump in and start helping them. If you see someone with a lot of things and you think you could help them out then you can simply ask, “Would you like a hand?”

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