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Isn't kindness already implied when you say "I request you to..."?

When I say "I humbly request you to...", the word humbly helps me to label the state of my behavior during the request.

On the other hand, what value does the word kindly add to the request?

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possible duplicate of What's the deal with "thank you kindly"? – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '12 at 18:51
up vote 12 down vote accepted


Grammatically speaking, no, it is not correct, because you cannot write:

  • *I request you to do something.
  • *I requested him to be here.

You must write:

  • I request that you do something.
  • I requested that he be here.

Because request is one of those verbs that wants the other kind of construct, the one with that and a clause, not the one with a to-infinitive. These are not always interchangeable; it depends on the verb that governs them.

Note that you can request NPs just fine; it is VPs where you must be careful.

  • I requested his presence.


As for politeness, we don’t really do much in the way of etiquette questions here. However, things like

  • We kindly request. . . .
  • We politely request. . . .
  • We humbly request. . . .
  • We respectfully request. . . .
  • We earnestly request. . . .

are all frequently seen in formal invitations and such. They are in the “expected” format. As with all language of courtesy, you should not get too worked up over what each word literally means in these frozen, fossilized forms. They have become formulaic, so it is “what people do” on such occasions.

Note that another old formula:

  • We request and require. . . .

is something different; it is in fact a demand, and sometimes a command.

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The last one appears in British passports. – Andrew Leach Dec 31 '12 at 14:59
Kindly is out of place here: kindness should be imputed to the addressee, not the addressor. – StoneyB Dec 31 '12 at 15:43
This is a different and fairly widely-used usage, as tchrist says in his answer. Indeed, in 'would you kindly just give up your seat for my great-grandmother', kindly and just are two of the hedging devices (pragmatic markers subset politeness) (the third device is the would you construction) (and the fourth, the winning smile). Kindly (which some insist is still adverbial here!) is here a near-synonym of please. In the original example, kindly is accepted as being transferred (cf restless night, contemplative cigarette). Though I agree, very transferred. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 31 '12 at 15:59
I don't accept the strictures you place on request. In Google Books, I request you to has been consistently more common than I request that you. I'm not aware of any principle apart from your own personal preference that distinguishes between the two. – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '12 at 18:59
@FumbleFingers It’s simply that “I request you to. . . .” sounds ungrammatical to me. I cannot generate it, have never heard or seen it within my memory, and would perceive it as a non-native speaker error if I were to encounter it. It is utterly alien to me. What more do you want? That is not “personal preference”. That is native experience, something which you cannot gainsay me. – tchrist Dec 31 '12 at 19:13

One of the OED’s definitions of kindly is ‘With natural affection, affectionately, lovingly; with sympathy, benevolence, or good nature.’ There is nothing at all wrong either grammatically or socially in making a request in such a civilised manner.

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There are two issues here: the grammaticality of the construction 'request someone to do something' and the appropriacy of the adverb 'kindly' in this context. As to the first question, the New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) has as one of its examples for the use of 'request':

The letter requested him to report to London immediately.

So that is strong support for the grammaticality of the expression. As to the use of 'kindly', this seems to revolve around who is supposed to be 'kind'. In this phrase it is the speaker ('I kindly...') whereas one would think that the intention is to request the kindness of the hearer as in 'Would you kindly...?' So it seems odd and is possibly a case of transferrence. Personally I would never recommend saying 'I kindly....' at all since kindness is a quality that others should impute to you, not you to yourself. 'I humbly/respectfully/earnestly...' seem more appropriate to me.

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I want to comment on the grammaticality of:

•*I request you to do something.

Something hotly debated by tchrist, FumbleFingers, RegDwight and others above.

I agree with tchrist, this is not an acceptable grammatical form.

The reason for this, I think, is because request is not a catenative verb, i.e., it can't be followed with an infinitive (even separated by the pronoun "you") unless it is in the passive form. So while RegDwight above is correct in saying that

"The letter requested him to report to London immediately."

is correct, it would not be correct to say:

"The letter requests you to report to London immediately".

The first iteration (from OED) is only correct because request appears in a passive construction.

As reference, I provide: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:English_catenative_verbs

I see this incorrect use of request constantly working as a legal editor at a major Japanese law firm (e.g., "We request you to sign the document immediately") - invariably, I change it to "We ask you" (since to ask is catenative) or "We request that you sign the document immediately".

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-1 I think you've misunderstood the restriction in the Wiktionary article. If the object separates "request" and the "to infinitive", the structure is not concatenative: "Concatenative verbs are verbs which can be followed directly by another verb" is what Wiktionary says. If "The letter requested him to report to London immediately", then "The letter requests you to report to London immediately" is also correct because the only difference is tense: neither illustrates concatenation because the two verbs are separated by the object in both sentences. I suggest that you delete this answer. – user21497 Feb 18 '13 at 9:01

for me the sentwence is wrong. It is not the same to humbly request than to kindly request... what has kindness to do with it?

It is for the "requested" to be kind, not to the "requester".

Hence, the correct version would be: I request you to kindly do something or I request that you kindly do something...

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protected by tchrist Aug 13 '14 at 14:45

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