Polite Language Practice


1) Get students to read “Would you be so kind” or a similar text (best done at home) & to make a note of key phrases. The text “Would you be so kind?” can be found here: http://www.karriere.de/service/would-you-be-so-kind-108655

2) In class, brainstorm the phrases they can remember and discuss which are interchangeable, e.g.:
Could you please / Would you be able to please / I’d be grateful if you could…
I’m afraid that  / I’m sorry, but / We regret that..
Sorry to / I apologise for …

3) Also discuss various ways of showing distance to make utterances more polite, e.g.:
past tenses = I was wondering, I wanted to ask..
Maybe / Perhaps,
‘seems’ (e.g. “there seems to be a problem”)
conditionals – would / could (instead of will/want or can)

 4) See how many ways your students know of saying “please” and “thank you” and collect some polite responses to ‘thank you’, e.g.:

You’re welcome  / Not at all  / Don’t mention it  /  (It was) my pleasure

Note: Steps 2, 3, and 4 could be done in smaller groups who then present a poster with their results to the class. It depends on whether your students are likely to have encountered the language before and you simply want to elicit, or whether this is the first time they’ve looked at polite langauge in this much focus. You could also spread these language study sessions over a few lessons and lead up to the role-plays below more slowly.

5) Give the situation role cards (below) to pairs and get them to practise acting out the whole situation, interacting as politely as they can, using the language studies above. You could leave the posters up, or a quick list of phrases on the board so that they can refer to them during their practice role-plays.

If you have a lot of time and / or the students are finished quickly, you can give different pairs a chance to practise different situations

6) As a closing step to the lesson, get some pairs to act out their role play as examples in front of the whole class. Ask the whole class to pay attention to which language items from above they have employed and to use that to give a ‘politeness rating’ (e.g. points out of 10) for the langauge used. If there’s time, you can then discuss ways to make the conversation even more polite. This works best if you’ve been able to record the conversations to re-play and discuss.


Ask your neighbour to turn their music down.
Complain about your meal in a restaurant.
Ask your boss for a pay rise.
In the theatre, someone is sitting in their seat. Ask them to move.
On a plane, someone is sitting in their seat. Ask them to move.
You’ve lost your wallet. Ask a colleague for some money to buy lunch.
Ask a teacher for help with something.
You’re waiting to use a ticket machine. Ask the current user to hurry up.
Ask someone to move their car out of your way.
Ask if you can push into the front of a queue.
Ask for a deadline extension for a piece of work.
Ask to use someone’s mobile phone.
You left your umbrella in a classroom and need to interrupt a lesson to retrieve it. Ask nicely.
You’ve lost your wallet. Ask someone for some money for the bus home.
Complain about the wine in a wine bar.
Complain about the cleanliness of your hotel room.
Your taxi driver seems to be taking the longest route. Ask / complain about this.
You are vegetarian but your friend has cooked steak and chips for you. Explain politely why you can’t eat it.

2 thoughts on “Polite Language Practice

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