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Conversation strategies: Asking for favors

Episode 10

Can you do me a favor? Yes, that’s the typical question we use for making requests, but there are some other expressions that help us sound more polite. Look at the four different ways used for asking for favors below.

Asking for a favor politely

You can use these expressions to ask for a favor politely. They are useful in formal situations or

if you are asking someone a big favor

I was wondering, . . .

  • I was wondering, could you help me write my resume?
  • I was wondering, could you write a reference for me?
  • I was wondering, could you take care of my dog while I’m away?
  • I was wondering, could you drive me to the hospital?
  • I was wondering, could you pick up my daughter from school?
  • I was wondering, could you swap with me?

 Swap [intransitive, transitive] to do the thing that someone else has been doing, and let them do the thing that you have been doing SYN change 

  • They decided to swap roles for the day.
  • She ended up swapping jobs with her secretary.

I was wondering if I / you could . . .

  • I was wondering if I could ask you something.
  • I was wondering if you could help me write my resume.
  • I was wondering if you could write a reference for me.
  • I was wondering if you could drive me to the hospital.
  • I was wondering if you could pick up my daughter from school.
  • I was wondering if you’d like to swap with me.

I wanted to . . .

  • Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.
  • I wanted to ask you something.

Would it be all right / OK with you if I . . . ? (+ past form of verb)

  • Would it be OK with you if I picked it up next Tuesday?
  • Would it be Ok if you did the dishes tonight?
  • Would it be all right if you took the dog for a walk?

Responses

All right, OK, So, Sure

You can use All right, OK, and Sure to agree to requests:

A: I was wondering if I could ask you something.

B: Sure.

A: I was wondering, could you write a reference for me?

B: OK

A: I was wondering if you could drive me to the hospital.

B: Sure

Let’s practice

  1. You are busy and you need your roommate to take your dog for a walk.
  2. You are going to run some errands and you need your friend pick up your daughter from school.
  3. You and your friend are leaving a party. Your friend drove, but you didn’t. now you’re really tired.
  4. Your roommate is going grocery shopping and you need some milk.
  5. You didn’t understand something your teacher said. You need her to repeat.
  6. Your car broke down this morning and I had to take a taxi. I don’t have a ride home.
  7. You need to get to the bank by 4 p.m. but you finish work at 5pm.

Answers:

  1. I was wondering, could you take the dog for a walk tonight?
  2. I wanted to ask a favor, could you pick up my daughter from school?
  3. Would it be Ok if you drove home tonight? I had too many drinks.
  4. I was wondering if you could pick up some milk for me.
  5. I wanted to ask a favor, I was wondering if you could repeat the grammar explanation.
  6. I was wondering if you could give me a ride home after work. I think my house is on your way.
  7. I need to get to the bank by 4 p.m. Would it be all right if I left work a few minutes early today? so I can be sure I get there in time…

You can use All right, OK, and So to move a conversation to a new phase or topic:

Situation 1: The nanny didn’t show up today and you have no one to take care of your child.

A: Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.

B: All right. So, what can I do for you?

A: Would it be all right if worked from home today?

B: Sure.

Situation 2: You have a job interview at the same time your daughter leaves school.

A: Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.

B: All right. So, what can I do for you?

A: I was wondering if you could pick up my daughter from school.

B: Sure. What time should I be there?

Situation 3: You and your friend are leaving a party. Your friend drove, but you didn’t. now you’re really tired.

A: Well, I wanted to ask a favor, actually.

B: All right. So, what can I do for you?

B: Would it be all right if I left work a few minutes early today? so I can be sure I get there in time…

B: Right, you can leave as soon as you’re done with the report.

To listen to this episode click on the button below.

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Conversation strategies: Responding to suggestions

Episode 7

Picture this, you meet with your friends and would like to go to a coffee shop. One of them suggests: Why don’t’ we go to Starbucks? How do you respond to that suggestion?

  • Suggestions that we like

You can use these expressions to respond to suggestions that you like:

A: We could go to a bar.  B: That’s a great idea.

A: Why don’t we have Chinese? B: Sure

A: Let’s go to that coffee shop that serves coffeetails. B: That sounds great!

By the way, there is a coffeeshop that sells coffeetails, like cocktails but with coffee. It’s a little hole in the wall in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was actually going to another coffee shop but I kind of got lost and ended up going to this little café called “Graft café”. If you ever go to Chiang Mai and are a coffee lover, I highly suggest you check out this tiny, unique coffee place.

So, if someone suggests going to Graft café, I will always say That’s a great idea! Or That sounds great!

  • Suggestions we don’t like

You won’t always want to accept a suggestion. For example: There’s a Peruvian dish I hate called “Olluquito”. If someone suggests having Olluquito for lunch, I would probably say: “I don’t know. I don’t really like that dish”.

To respond to suggestions that you don’t like you can use these expressions:

Suggestions we don’t like

A: We could have a pizza or something. B: I don’t know. We had pizza last weekend.

A: Why don’t we have an early dinner? B: I guess we could but then I’ll get hungry again by midnight.

A: Let’s have vegetarian. B: Maybe, but you know it’s hard to find good vegetarian restaurants here.

A: Why don’t we have pasta? B: I guess we could, but we’re in Thailand you know? Thai food makes more sense.

If someone suggests going to a vegetarian restaurant in my city, I wouldn’t be so excited about it because there aren’t really good vegetarian restaurants and the few good ones are kind of expensive. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is well-known for offering good and affordable vegetarian food. Here I had the best Pad Thai made with papaya noodles; it was absolutely delicious.

After making a negative response, people usually offer an explanation or excuse:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B: I don’t know. I’d like to, but it’s not that easy. I doubt my boss would agree to that. (a little dosis of reality there).

I guess

You can use I guess when you’re not 100% sure about something or if you don’t want to sound 100% sure. It can make what you say sound softer:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B:  I guess it’s not that easy.

A: Let’s go window shopping. B: Maybe. It’s actually kind of risky, though. I guess I could end up buying something I can’t afford.

To listen to this episode click on the button below.

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Conversation strategies: Saying more than just “no” and using “really” for emphasis and to soften statements

Episode 2

To say more than just “no”, you can use the following strategies.

Strategy 1: Saying more than just no

When someone asks you a question and you want to give a negative answer, it’s not nice to just say no. saying more than just no is friendly and polite:

  • No, not really.
  • Well, no, actually…
  • Well, no, I mean…

A: Do you enjoy watching sports?  B: Um, no, not really. I mean, I’d rather play sports than watch them.

A: Do you like walking? B: Um, not really. I prefer running.

A: Do you have any hobbies?  B: Well no, I mean, I guess I don’t have time for hobbies.

A: Would you like a dessert? B: No, thanks I’m fine for now. I mean I’m trying to watch my weight.

A: Would you like something to drink? B: No, thanks. Maybe later.

A: Do you enjoy cooking?  B: Um, no, not really. I mean, I cook every day but I’m not really into it.

A: Do you have any hobbies?  B: Well no, I don’t really have much time.

Strategy 2: Using “really” for emphasis and to soften our statements

The second strategy is to use the word “really” for both making your statements stronger and making your statements softer.

You can use really to make statements stronger:

I’d really like to visit Thailand in the near future. (really before a verb). I’ve seen photos of the beaches, islands, Buddhist temples. I’ve heard of the Thai massage, Thailand’s rainforest and of course, it’s cuisine.

Remember the first part of my sentence “I’d really like to…”. We can use “really” to make statements stronger. The pattern is REALLY + VERB

  • I’d really like to go hiking sometime. (really before a verb).
  • My boyfriend really wanted to hike the Rainbow Mountain in Cusco, after the ordeal he realized hiking is not for him.
  • I’d really like to take some time off work. I’m a bit stressed out.
  • I’d really enjoy running a marathon.
  • I’d really like to live in a different country for a few months. I think it would really make me understand other cultures. She’d really hate to be stood up.

You can also use REALLY + ADJECTIVE

  • I’m really good at photography. (really + adjective).
  • I’m really good at computer design. (really + adjective)
  • My best friend is really good at creative writing.
  • My mom is really good at baking.
  • My dad is really good at telling jokes.
  • I’m really fond of cats.
  • My sister’s really fond of dogs. She’s recently adopted a dog called Lily.

*fond of: to like someone very much, especially when you have known them for a long time and almost feel love for them. Example: Over the years we’ve grown very fond of each other.

You can also use really to make negative statements softer:

  • You can use really with adjectives

The pattern is NOT + REALLY + ADJECTIVE

I’m not really interested in photography. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really interested in politics. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really good at cooking. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really good at video games. (not + really + adjective)

  • You can also use really with verbs:

The pattern is DON’T + REALLY + VERB or DOESN’T + REALLY + VERB

I don’t really have much time for hobbies. (really after don’t or / doesn’t)

I don’t really have much time for hobbies. (really after don’t or / doesn’t)

  • Not really can also be a polite way to answer no:

A: Do you work out a lot?  B:  Not really. Actually, I don’t work out at all.

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