Giving Orders

Eveline Goodman_Hi there Everyone! As it is spring!! Yippee! The days are a longer -thank God. Yesterday it was 20 degrees Celsius. I simply could not believe I was leaving my gloves at home. I hope you took time and did use the chance of doing the level check test link that I mentioned last time. It is worth it! Anyways, back to what we wanted to talk about today: 

Unless you work in the military, you should avoid giving direct commands. When you tell people what to do, you should soften your order to make it more polite.

There are several ways to do this, many of which can be combined with each other:

1)      Saying “please”

A “please” will take some of the directness out of a command, but not all of it. ( so do not think you are polite when you put “please” in your orders/commands!)

If you are in a hurry and the situation is fairly routine, a simple command softened by “please” is acceptable. But if you do it too often you maybe regarded as rude.

–         “Please tell her I am busy.”

–         “Put him through, please.”

2)      Using a model verb

“Can”, “Could” and “Would” are commonly used to tone down an order. They are often used together with the word “please”

–         “Would you ring up my wife and tell her I am going to be delayed?”

–         “Can you photocopy this for me, please?”

3)      Saying “just”

“just” is a common addition to orders and requests. By using this adverb, you imply that you are not asking for a very big favour.

– “Could you just take a look at this report and tell me what you think?”

4)      Saying “for a moment”

“for a moment” and “for a minute” are common softeners. They show that you don’t want to waste the other person’s time.

–         “Could you (just) step into my office for a moment, please?”

5)      Using “I”

Using a form such as “I’d like” or “ I need/want” is meant to make the command more personal. It implies that the task is important, and that you are entrusting the person with it.

–         “Sam, I‘d like you to call the caterer and confirm the booking.”

6)      Using phrases like “If you’ve got a minute”

These introductory phrases are strong softeners, often used when the task requested is a fairly big one. Try not to overuse these forms or you may seem too timid.(unterwürfig)

– “If you have got a minute, I’d like to have a word with you.”

– “If you do not mind, I’d like you to pick Bart up from the airport.”

7)      Being Indirect

-“ Malcolm, have you got a minute?”

-“ Have you finished that letter yet?”

Often, simple orders are not expressed directly, but are implied. Here, looking out of her office and asking Malcolm whether he’s got a minute, the boss is telling him she’d like to talk to him. The second question is meant as an indirect reminder to finish the letter.


Text: Eveline Goodman.

E. Goodman Portrait„Eveline Goodman ist Geschäftsführerin von EforP – English for Professionals, einem Sprachinstitut, das sich auf maßgeschneiderte Trainings – auf „Integrated Trainings“ sowie auf Sprachtrainings – für Unternehmer und deren Mitarbeiter spezialisiert hat. Should you have any questions until then, just contact us: www.eforp.com Online test for medical professionals: http://lct.eforp-group.com/lct-gw.php Or simply call us to get an appointment in person or per skype: 030 351 33 792.

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