Compare following expressions in English used for the same purpose of asking someone sitting next to you to pass a book:
‘Pass the book.’
‘Can you pass the book?’
‘Could you pass the book?’
‘Could you pass the book, please?’
If you use the first expression, you’ll come across as rude. The person may still pass the book, but with a frown on your temerity to ‘order’ him.
The second is OK.
The third is better.
The last one is perfect, and the person has to be a moron to refuse you.
I’ve seen that many who use the first (or similar) sentence don’t do so because they’re rude. They just don’t know what the polite way of asking is. But unfortunately people around you can’t read your mind. They’ll assume you’re rude and act accordingly.
That’s the difference few words can make.
In this post, you’ll learn plenty of polite daily-use phrases and expressions that you can use in different situations. Mastering them would not only save you from embarrassment and committing faux paus, but also improve your fluency by eliminating inconvenient pauses you take because you don’t know what to say in particular situations.
How to make these phrases and expressions a seamless part of your verbal communication?
Use them. Period. Pick one or two of these expressions every day and look for opportunities to use them. (If you want you can bookmark this page for easy future access to these expressions.) If you don’t find an appropriate situation to use these 1-2 expressions of the day, use them anyway by imagining a hypothetical situation and speaking them out loud as part of complete sentences (several examples ahead in the post).
Before you use an expression the first time in a real conversation, say it loudly 2-3 times as part of a full sentence so that you get comfortable with its sounds. You may not realize, but if you’ve rarely spoken an expression, you’ll likely struggle to speak in the real situation.
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Here are some common expressions for 35+ situations:
- Wherever there is a dialogue, the two persons have been color-coded for ease of browsing
- In some dialogues one or both the persons have been numbered to show multiple possible responses in a particular situation
- Key phrases have been underlined for you to retain them better
- My comments stay in square brackets.)
1. How to introduce yourself and your friend/ colleague?
Rohit1: Hi, I’m Rohit.
Rohit2: Hi, my name is Rohit. What’s your name?
Rohit3: Hi, I don’t think we’ve met. Let me introduce myself. I’m Rohit.
[Some people use the expression ‘what’s your good name’ to ask someone’s name. It’s rank bad. ‘What’s your name’ is sufficient]
Mahesh: Hi Rohit, I’m Mahesh.
Rohit: I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name. [Saying ‘sorry’ or ‘sorry what’ alone is impolite]
Mahesh: I’m Mahesh.
Rohit: Got it. Nice to meet you, Mahesh.
Mahesh: Nice to meet you too.
Rohit introducing his friend Rahul to Mahesh
Rohit1: Mahesh, this is my friend, Rahul.
Rohit2: Mahesh, I would like you to meet my friend, Rahul.
Rohit3: Mahesh, please meet my friend, Rahul.
Mahesh: Hi Rahul, I’m Mahesh.
2. How to greet others?
X2: How are you today?
X3: How are you doing?
Y1: Great/ very well, thanks. How about you?
Y2: Great/ very well, thanks. How are you doing?
[First you respond (‘great or very well’), then thank the person for enquiring about you, and then ask about his wellbeing as a matter of courtesy]
Y3: Not so good. I’m overworked these days. [The earlier two responses portrayed that everything was fine. Here, Y isn’t feeling great]
X: Long time no see. How have you been? [‘Long time no see’ is used when you meet someone after a long time]
Y: I’m fine. I’ve been just caught up with work. How’re you doing?
X: What’s up?
Y: Not much. Just the regular office work. [In this case, Y isn’t very upbeat]
3. How to make a request?
X2: Can you please press ‘9’?
Y1: Sure, no problem.
Y2: Ya, sure.
X: Would you mind passing the book?
Y: No, not at all. [Means the person doesn’t mind passing the book]
X: I would be grateful if you could pass the book.
Y: Here it is. [The person says this while passing the book]
X: I would appreciate if you could pass the book.
Y: I’m sorry, but I think someone was reading it few minutes back. Can you please ask the person after he comes back?
[In this case, the response is negative. Reason for refusal could be anything, but it should ideally start by expressing regret (‘I’m sorry’) to sound polite even in refusal]
X: Can I borrow your notes for a day?
Y1: I’m sorry, but I’d need them for my work.
Y2: I would’ve loved to help you, but I’d need them for my work.
Y3: I wish I could help you. I’ve already promised the notes to someone else.
X: Would you mind lending your pen for a while? [You may say this, say, in a bank where you’ve to fill a form, but you forgot to bring your pen]
Y1: Sorry, I can’t. I’ve to use it in a moment.
Y2: Sorry, I can’t right now.
Y3: I’m afraid I can’t.
X: I was wondering if you could help me with my homework.
Y: Sure. I would be glad to help.
Sorry to bother you, but can you tell me how to reach this address. [This expression is used when you disturb people in their work to make a request. ‘Excuse me’ too will be fine in place of the underlined expression]
Please excuse my ignorance, but can you tell me how to locate this book in the library. [This expression is used when you think your query is too simple to ask]
Please excuse my ignorance, but what’s the capital of Canada.
4. How to say bye?
Bye. [This is informal]
Take care. [You say it to people you’re close to]
X: I’m sorry but I’ve to leave now. Speak to you later.
Y1: See you. Y2: See you later. Y3: See you soon. [Another informal way]
X: I really gotta go. Let’s catch up later.
Y: Sure. See you later.
X: Bye (or see you). It was a pleasure meeting you.
Y: The pleasure is mine. I hope (or look forward) to see you again soon.
5. Phone call conversations
Receiver: I’m Mayank from ABC Ltd. How can I help you?
Caller1: Hi, I would like to speak to Rohit.
Caller2: Hi, can I speak to Rohit?
Receiver1: Can I get your name, please?
Receiver2: I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong number. [If the caller dialed a wrong number]
Caller: I’m Rahul. I’m calling from…
If Rohit can’t come on the call
Receiver1: I’m afraid he is not in office.
Receiver2: I’m sorry he is in a meeting at the moment.
Caller1: Not a problem. Can I leave a message for him? [‘Not a problem’ here means that the caller is OK with the not-so-happy situation of not being able to talk to Rohit]
Caller2: Not a problem. What will be a good time to call back then?
Asking to hold the phone
Receiver1: Just a moment please…
Receiver2: Could you hold on please…?
Receiver3: May I put you on hold?
Receiver4: Can you hang on for a moment?
Caller: Sure. Not a problem.
Facing difficulty in hearing what the other person is saying
Sorry, I can’t hear you. Could you repeat yourself?
Sorry, I can’t hear you. There seems to be some disturbance in the line. Could you repeat what you said a while back (or just said)?
[In such situations, many people say, “your voice is breaking/ cracking.” These aren’t the right expressions for this situation]
I’m afraid I can’t hear you. Could you call us back? [If you’ve to ask the person to call back]
Receiver1: Would you like to leave a message for Rohit?
Receiver2: Would you like to call back?
[If you’re the caller, you can say ‘can I leave a message for him, please’]
Caller: Yes, please. I wanted to speak to him for…
Ending the call
Receiver: Thank you for calling ABC Ltd. Have a great day.
Caller: You too (have a great day).
Receiver: Thanks for calling. Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Caller: No, thanks.
6. Reception desk conversations
Guest: I’ve come from ABC Company and I’ve an appointment with Rohit.
Receptionist1: Sir, please wait. I’ll inform him.
Receptionist2: Sir, he is busy in a meeting, and will be available in 10 minutes. You can wait in the lounge area. Would you like to have some water? [If Rohit was busy in a meeting]
7. Common office conversations
Why hasn’t John showed up? Where is he? Y: Well, my guess is as good as yours. [Even I don’t know where he is]
You need to step up your game. [You need to improve your performance]
I didn’t quite understand it. Can you give us a 101 lesson on the difference between SEO and SEM? [‘101 lesson’ means the basics of anything. The beginner courses are typically suffixed 101]
Can you come up with any original ideas on increasing our brand awareness? Most of what we’ve discussed so far have already been beaten to death. [‘Beaten to death’ means already used or discussed many times before]
Unfortunately, sales haven’t picked up despite our best efforts. Let’s go back to the drawing board. [It means you rethink your plan]
X: When do you want me to send the documents?
Y: Please send it at your earliest convenience. [As soon as one is able to finish it]
I want to bounce few ideas on increasing my sales pipeline. [If you bounce something off someone, you tell someone about an idea or plan in order to find out what they think of it]
It’s 6 PM now. Let’s call it a day. [It means let’s finish work for the day]
I’m sorry to interrupt but should we first review the points we discussed in the last meeting. [Suggestion through a question (‘should we’) makes it polite]
May I add something to the point you just made? [If you want to supplement what someone just said]
Where were we? [You use this expression to recall the last point you were at before getting distracted to something else]
What time is the meeting? [At what time will the meeting be held?]
Have a great weekend. [You say this expression to your colleagues when leaving office on the last working day of the week]
How was your weekend? [You say this expression when you meet your colleagues on the first working day of a new week]
8. How to thank and receive thanks?
X3: Thank you. X4: Thank you very much. [This is normally said in formal settings]
X5: I appreciate your help/ advice/ time.
X6: That’s very kind of you.
X7: I can’t thank you enough.
Y1: You’re welcome. Y2: My pleasure. [‘Mention not’ is bad]
X: I tried, but I couldn’t fix it.
Y: Thank you anyway. [X tried to help you, but couldn’t. You still thank him/ her for making the effort]
9. How to say ‘sorry’?
Y1: That’s OK. Y2: No worries. Y3: Not a problem. Y4: That’s alright. [It’s fine. Don’t worry about it]
10. How to compliment others?
I like your dress. Where did you get it from?
Your perfume smells nice. What brand it is?
That’s a good one. [You say this expression when someone tells a good joke or something similar]
You rock. [It means you’re amazing]
You’ve made my day.
Great job. Keep up the good work.
You look great today.
I like the way you handled the questions after the presentation.
I couldn’t have completed the project without you.
11. Conversations when you host people for lunch/ dinner at home
Guest: Yes, please.
Host: Can I get you some more vegetables?
Guest1: I’ve had enough. Thank you. [You say this and the following two phrases when you can’t eat anymore]
Guest2: No, I’m good (or full). Thank you.
Guest3: Thank you, but I can’t take any more. I’m stuffed.
Host: Here are the desserts. Please help yourself. [When you say ‘help yourself’ you ask people to take the food themselves as opposed to someone serving them]
Guest: The ice cream is delicious. Can I have another helping of it? [You say this phrase to express your desire to have another portion of ice cream]
What to say to the host when you’re leaving?
Guest: I really had a great time here. Thank you so much for having me.
Host: It was a pleasure hosting you.
12. How to ask your colleague for tea/ coffee?
X: Do you want a cup of tea?
Y: Yes, please. [S/he can then follow up by thanking you when you bring the tea]
X: Would you like a cup of tea?
Y: Yes, why not?
X: Can I get you a glass of water?
Y: That would be great, thanks.
When the response is ‘no’
X: May I get you a cup of tea?
Y: No, thanks. [Even if you don’t want, you thank the person for asking you]
X: Do you care for a cup of tea?
Y: No, not at the moment. Thanks.
X: Do you care for a cup of tea?
Y: Thanks, but I’ve just had one. [You say ‘no’ because you had tea not too long ago]
X: Would you like a cup of tea?
Y: No, I’m good. Thanks.
13. How to interrupt others respectfully?
Y1: Yes, go on. [Or they may not say anything and just look toward you quizzically waiting to hear what you say next. Now is the time for you to provide the reason you interrupted them]
Y2: Let me finish first. [In case, they don’t want to be interrupted]
Excuse me sir, can you tell me where can I find this address? [‘Excuse me’ is said to politely draw someone’s attention]
Excuse me, you just dropped this piece of paper.
14. How to ask someone to repeat what they said?
I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Could you repeat yourself? [You say this when you don’t understand something and you ask the person who is explaining to say it again]
I didn’t catch (or get) the last part. Could you repeat it?
15. How to seek permission?
Y1: Yes, please do.
Y2: I’m sorry, but I don’t know you.
Y3: I’m not sure if I would be here by then.
Y4: I’m sorry, but I’m about to leave.
16. How to express opinion?
In my opinion, you should postpone the trip.
I think we should take this route, as we’ll reach earlier this way.
I think that’s a good idea.
I don’t think it’s going to work.
If you ask me, you should accept this offer immediately.
As far as I know, he’s not a reliable person.
I believe there is some truth in his statement.
According to me, you shouldn’t invest in the share market if you don’t understand it.
X: How is the ice-cream?
Y: Not to my expectations.
17. How to make a suggestion?
X2: What do you think of this image? Would it look fine in your presentation?
X3: Do you think this image would work in your presentation?
Y: Thanks, but I’m not too sure about it.
X: What do you say about going for a quick cup of coffee?
Y: I’m up for it. [I’m ready for it]
X: How about going for a weekend trip to Shimla?
Y1: That’s a great idea.
Y2: That would be great.
Y3: I would love to, but I’m bit caught up this weekend with some personal stuff. [You soften the refusal by first saying you would love to come]
X: How about ordering espresso?
Y1: Sounds good to me.
Y2: I would prefer latte. [You don’t directly say ‘no’, which comes across as rude. Instead, you say a different option]
18. How to express agreement with others?
You’re spot on.
You’re absolutely right.
19. How to express disagreement with others?
[One needs to disagree respectfully. Here you’re first acknowledging the person’s point of view (‘I can see your point’) and then providing a differing point of view. This will make the person more receptive to your point. And, of course, avoid saying blunt phrases such as ‘you’re wrong or you’re incorrect’]
I think we can approach this problem in another way. What do you think? [Asking a question (‘what do you think?’) and seeking opinion makes your disagreement milder and easy to take]
I beg to differ on this point. I think…
I’m afraid I disagree with you on this. I think…
20. How to ask someone to wait without offending her/ him?
Can you hold on for a moment? [As a courtesy, you should apologize after the holdup is over by saying something such as ‘I’m sorry for the inconvenience.’]
21. How to express your support for an idea?
That’s not a bad idea.
I like your idea.
That’s a great idea.
I’m sold on this.
22. How to ask for information?
Excuse me, do you know where ABC building is?
23. How to decline an invitation to a party, movie, or other events?
That sounds a great plan, but I’m sorry I’ve already planned up something else. [In such situations, you need to show positive inclination toward the event (‘that sounds a great plan’) followed by your reason for the refusal]
I really appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be able to come because I’ll be out of the town on the day.
I wish I could come. But I’ve few relatives coming over to my place on that day.
24. Expressing anger
I can’t take such incompetence anymore.
I’m sick and tired of lack of coordination between marketing and sales teams.
I’m fed up of him.
He is late again. Come on, give me a break.
25. How to refuse an offer?
Thank you for the offer, but…
26. Celebratory expressions
He is chilling out in S Africa these days.
X: I’ve got promotion.
Y: Well, that calls for a celebration. [You use this expression when a good news has just come in]
X: Today is my birthday.
Y: That calls for a celebration. What are you treating us with?
27. Restaurant conversations
Can we’ve a table for two?
Table for two, please.
We’ve a reservation in the name of… [If you’ve reserved a table]
I would like to have…
What do you recommend? [If you want to seek waiter’s recommendation]
Do you’ve any specials? [This is to ask if the restaurant has any special dish of the day]
Excuse me [You use this expression to call the waiter who may be at a distance. Saying ‘hello’ to call is considered rude]
Please make the food non-spicy (or less oily).
The food is too salty (or cold or spicy). Could you replace it?
Can I get a scoop of ice cream?
Leaving for a while to attend a call etc.
Please excuse me for a moment.
I’m sorry I’ve to take this call. I’ll be back in a minute (or moment).
I’m sorry. I’ll be with you in a moment.
I’m sorry. I’ll be right back.
[You can use these expressions in many other situations where you’ve to leave for a short while to attend a call or some other work]
Paying the bill
Could you bring the check/ bill?
Can I get the check, please?
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28. Shopping conversations
Y: This shop is open twenty-four-seven.
Your offer is too good to be true. Am I missing something?
Your offer is too good to be true. Is there some catch here?
I’m looking for slim-fit jeans.
Do you have this trouser in 28 waist size?
Do you have this shirt in XL size?
Where is the trial room, please?
Do you’ve any items on sale?
When is your new collection arriving?
29. How to ask for someone’s plans?
Y: I’m going out for dinner.
X: What are your plans for the weekend? If you’re free, lemme know. I’m planning something. [‘Let me’ is spoken as ‘lemme’]
Y1: Sure, what exactly do you’ve in mind?
Y2: I’m sorry. I’ve already made some plans for the weekend. [In case you’re not free]
30. Expressing nervousness/ worry
My heart skipped (missed) few beats while waiting for the exam result.
31. Expressing ignorance about something
Y: I’ve no idea.
X: Do you’ve any idea about the agenda of today’s conference call?
Y: I don’t have the foggiest idea about the agenda. [I don’t have the slightest idea]
X: Do you know where the nearest bank is?
Y: I’ve no clue.
32. Expressing desire to eat
Can I’ve one more slice of the pizza? I’m really starving.
Hey, do you want to grab coffee? [You say this to a colleague or friend when you want them to come along with you for coffee (or something else).]
Mother: Rahul, what do you want to have in dinner today?
Rahul: I’m bored eating at home every day. How about eating out tonight? [You say this phrase to express your interest in eating out in a restaurant or similar place (as opposed to eating at home)]
33. Expressing timelines
We’ll have to work against the clock on this project, as the client wants to launch their product a week from now. [If you work against the clock, you work in great hurry, because there is little time left]
The project is ahead of schedule (or ahead of time). [It means the project is being completed at a pace faster than required]
The speaker is ahead of schedule in his presentation. [Given the current pace, the speaker will finish earlier than the finish time]
The project is on schedule. [The project is maintaining just the speed that is required]
The project is behind schedule. [The project is lagging behind]
The meeting is behind schedule.
34. Expressing difficulty of a task
My job is so demanding. I’m working like a dog these days. [I’ve to work very hard]
I’ve been pursuing this client for last six weeks, but he always dilly-dallies. He is a tough nut to crack. [The client is tough to win over]
Because I’ve done it so many times, writing sales report is a piece of cake for me. [It means the task is easy]
Running five kilometers in a go is child’s play for me.
35. Describing different types of personalities
He is a man of many words. [He speaks a lot]
He is talkative. [He speaks a lot]
He doesn’t mind such scolding. He is a thick-skinned guy.
He is a short-tempered guy?
He is as cool as a cucumber.
He is a shy person.
Such a shameless fellow. You’ll often find him blowing his own trumpet in the meetings. [Praising oneself]
Such a shameless fellow. You’ll often find him singing his own praise in the meetings.
36. What to say when things go wrong?
I’ve messed it up.