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Let's take the following two sentences as examples:

  1. I kindly ask you to send the letter to your boss.
  2. I ask you to kindly send the letter to your boss.
  3. It would be kind of you to send the letter to your boss. (this one would be understood the same way in English and my native language)

In our language we use the first one 99% of the time and the second seems to have opposite meaning of its English meaning.

What does "to kindly send" mean for English people?

  1. Doesn't it sound rude in English? As if I was ordering someone to do something kindly (as if they weren't kind usually) - that's what would be the meaning in my native language. My interpretation is: "Go and do this kindly this time." and I think that this expression shouldn't be used unless someone wants to offend another party. But I've seen this expression more than once so that makes me think that it really means...
  2. ...quite the opposite and it is equivalent to "I sincerely believe that you are a very kind person, I'm counting on your kindness to send this letter" - this is a bit persuasive, isn't it? If they don't send it they will make themselves look not kind.

So, what's the true meaning of each of the example sentences? To me it's ambiguous.

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possible duplicate of Is it correct to say "I kindly request you to..."? – FumbleFingers May 27 '13 at 16:55
@FumbleFingers Did you actually read the question that you linked to? It's not related at all. – Paul May 27 '13 at 17:13
Not recently, no. Having checked, it now seems there's a more relevant answer here, on a question which is mentioned in the link I gave above. But they both address the issue of what exactly kindly means in such usages, and specifically what it refers to (the way of asking, the quality of the anticipated response, etc.). – FumbleFingers May 27 '13 at 17:21
@FumbleFingers Okay, I think I'm starting to understand how native English speakers think of this word. To me "kindly = in a kind manner" and only that. But they use it as "please" as well which would make sense if replaced with "kind" in my second sentence. However, it's still hard to distinguish when someone would be saying that with irony and when they really mean that. Thanks for your help! – Paul May 27 '13 at 20:10
@ Paul: You've got it! Semantically, kindly often means much the same way as please in requests. Syntactically, they're both pretty "mobile" too, in that they can appear in various positions. Note the similarity with perhaps, which can also "slide around" in constructions like "I wonder if you could send this to the boss?". If you insert perhaps before the first or second word, the implication is "I might wonder". But you can put it just about anywhere else, with the implication "You might do this, if you're feeling co-operative". – FumbleFingers May 27 '13 at 20:42

The second example is not rude in the slightest. It is a like saying "would you be so kind as to...." and is in fact a polite way to ask somebody to do something, implying that there is no requirement for them to do it but that it would be kind if they would do it anyway.

The first example is not technically correct in English, unless you mean to imply that it is kind of you to ask the person to do something, but it is very commonly used and is understood as a gentle way of asking someone to do something, very similar to the second example.

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Thanks! That makes me very confused though. "Kindly send" is clearly an adjective + verb. Adjective describes that verb... so why people understand this as if it was describing person that it is referring to!? It technically describes an action "send" in my opinion. "Would you be so kind as to...." - in this case it is clear that "kind" describes the person and not the verb "send" but I still don't get the first sentence and why would the second one be incorrect. – Paul May 27 '13 at 17:23
"kindly" is an adverb, not an adjective, and so must modify a verb. In the first sentence, "kindly" modifies "ask". In the second, "kindly" modifies "send". – Peter Shor May 27 '13 at 17:55
@PeterShor Okay, thanks for correcting me but to me it still looks like the answer to "how to send that letter" is "kindly" and thus it doesn't indicate that it's kind of the listener to send the letter but instead it indicates that he has to do this "kindly as opposed to in a rude manner [like perhaps some day before]". Does anyone understand what I mean at all? Perhaps native English speakers are deeply familiar with only 1 version and can't imagine the second meaning it could have. – Paul May 27 '13 at 19:59
It could have had a different meaning if language was something exact and formulated, like mathematics. You're right in your syntactic analysis, and yet the semantics don't follow the syntax. This is how languages work, they don't normally adhere to rules that we try to formulate :) – Ilya Kogan May 27 '13 at 22:54

There are a multiplicity of issues here, some of which are grammatical and some etiquette-related.

Your first example just has the wrong meaning; I am being kind in asking you to send it.

The second is usually formulated Kindly send this letter to your superior. It would be perceived as rude, implying you are clearly not competent to deal with this. 'I ask you to' adds nothing to the sentence; it may appear less abrupt, but makes the grammar fuzzier at best. Use it (without I ask you) if you are certain you are in the right and the recipient wrong.

To kindly send is a split infinitive. Untold gallons of ink have been used in discussing this (e.g. Are split infinitives grammatically incorrect, or are they valid constructs?); for present purposes, just note that some people think it wrong, and so it is best avoided in uncertain contexts like this.

If you really would like the letter to be passed on. why not just say Please pass this letter on to your manager? That does raise the question why you did not send the letter to the manager in the first place, but no doubt you have explained that earlier.

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Incorporating caesarsgrunt's suggestion:

Would you be so kind as to send the letter to your boss?

If you would be so kind, send the letter to your boss.

The speaker is very politely asking the listener to do a menial task. This is very formal speech and might sound "stuffy", "pompous" or even worse, "patronising" to some. Very much depends on tone.

Kindly, send the letter to your boss

Again the speaker is asking for a favour but it is less formal. It means I am asking you kindly to do something for me.

However in a British context, it would be more appropriate to hear the follow:

If you wouldn't mind sending the letter to your manager.

Would you mind sending the letter to your senior manager?

Oi, you! Send this off to the boss. (Very informal!)

EDIT: I've added the more formal expressions, manager and senior manager as suggested by Tim Lymington.

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The problem is that boss itself is not formal enough to fit in this context: superior or manager might be better. And your last suggestion, tongue-in-cheek as it may be, is still the opposite of kindly. – TimLymington Jun 7 '13 at 17:49
  1. I kindly ask you to send the letter to your boss.
  2. I ask you to kindly send the letter to your boss.
  3. It would be kind of you to send the letter to your boss.

"I ask" is redundant in the first two sentences. When you ask someone to send the letter, you are already asking them and don't have to describe the process by saying "I ask". That said, it is not incorrect though usage is typically reserved for particular connotations.

That said, #1 is not quite right (implies you are being kind in the asking) though you may encounter it being used colloquially.

"Kindly send the letter to your boss" is analogous to "Please send the letter to your boss." and is not rude in the least. In some parts, kindly may be considered a bit more curt than please.

"It would be kind of you to send the letter to your boss." is a little awkward, though correct. What you'd find more commonly is "Would you be so kind as to send the letter to your boss?"

None of these imply anything about the general kindness of the second person.

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Some people might perceive the second as the most curt, but probably only because it is usually used by the proper and well-educated, because it is correct. You should technically always put the adjective before the word it describes. What I'm talking about doesn't really lend itself to your list, but it's a good idea to keep it in mind.

One of my favorite instances of a lapse of this, as an aside, is in Fahrenheit 451. One of the chapters is titled "Burning Bright", when grammatically, it would be best to say "Brightly Burning".

Really, any of your three options could be valid/accepted, and I would use any in turn!

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'Burning Bright' is a reference to Blake's 'Tiger': Bright is an adverb not an adjective: and your 'rule' does not apply to anybody who has left school. – TimLymington Jun 7 '13 at 20:06
I was not aware of the reference, nor did I claim it to be a rule. I just think it makes sense to put the adjective before the word it describes in English, though most people, including myself, order them either way in conversation. – Rome_Leader Jun 8 '13 at 17:35

Great site! grammatically - and politically - I think "I request you to kindly ..." is more apt, correct and respectful towards the other party than "I kindly request you to..".

By "kindly requesting", I feel I am giving more importance to me!

By "requesting you to kindly" I am giving more importance to you!

That's what I feel...Am I Correct?

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Saying “I request you to do something” is seriously ungrammatical in my language. It has to be “I request that one do something” instead. – tchrist Jan 20 '14 at 0:02

protected by tchrist Sep 9 '14 at 13:53

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