This tag is for questions regarding the polite use of words or phrases.

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11
votes
4answers
99k views

“Could you please” vs “Could you kindly”

I am a non-native speaker of English. When communicating with a professor, would it be better to use could you kindly send me the document or could you please send me the document? I know both are ...
2
votes
1answer
455 views

What are some phrases used to notify the speaker that you're still listening?

My employer often contacts me on chat and explains me what the next project is about. He does most of the talking, I just sometimes ask questions and throw in the occasional "okay" and "sure". These ...
3
votes
3answers
4k views

“And to you” or “you too”?

I really like to chat with English folks, so I have wished them Merry Christmas. To my surprise I have noticed the following pattern — the British answered "and to you", but Americans "you too". The ...
2
votes
2answers
892 views

Addressing Professors: Between Dr. and a hard place

Early in my (academic) life, I was told that it is appropriate to address a faculty as Professor only when he/she possesses the full Professorial rank and I would be better off addressing Assistant ...
1
vote
3answers
169 views

Can I express future action without the exclusion of former activity?

Consider the following scenario. Someone is hired for a job and is new to the career field. For instance, a new accountant. After being an accountant for a very short period of time, and doing an ...
12
votes
6answers
11k views

What is a less offensive synonym for “hypocrite”?

Is there a word that describe a person who doesn't "practice what they preach"? Basically, is there a synonym for "hypocrite" that carries less pejorative connotations? For example, let's say a ...
2
votes
2answers
763 views

How do I reject an offer? [closed]

Recently I got an offer letter from one of the top companies. However, because of some unexpected situations I want to reject the offer. In the mail I've explained all the reasons, but I am finding it ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Beg to differ - Why is there a need to beg for differ

Wouldn't 'Wish to differ' be better than 'Beg to differ'? A friend of mine asked me why I like to 'beg to differ', instead of 'wish to differ' or 'want to differ'. Any insight on the history of 'Beg ...
7
votes
7answers
34k views

Should I say “have a good night” at 5:00 PM?

We're off work at 5:00PM. I've never tried to say "have a good night" at this time of day. In fact, I wouldn't even say it at all unless I'd like to say it to someone who is heading to bed. When I'm ...
2
votes
4answers
5k views

Is it right to say “Thank you” in the response of “Thank you”?

When two persons help each other and one said "thank you" then is it right to say "Thank you" in the response.
4
votes
2answers
914 views

Is it offensive to call a Jewish person a “semite”?

Is it considered offensive to call a Jewish person a Semite? I've heard the phrase anti-semite or anti-semitism, but I've never heard someone call someone a Semite.
71
votes
10answers
29k views

Can “thanks in advance” be considered rude?

Some argue that because “thanks in advance” is written before any help has been offered, it adds an expectation of help and thus can be considered presumptuous. Is this reasonable? Would it be ...
8
votes
3answers
7k views

Difference between “Excuse me” and “Sorry”

What is the difference between "Excuse me, ..." and "Sorry, ..."? When do we use one or the other? For example, when you haven't heard the speaker, or stepped on someone's foot or accidentally ...
24
votes
16answers
29k views

Polite synonyms for “a——hole-ish” behavior

Are there any polite synonyms for asshole-ish behavior? A good synonym would probably have about the same impact and wouldn't send people looking for their dictionaries.
2
votes
3answers
263 views

Does ‘the moment’ clause always need an unpleasant or surprising situation?

When I wrote thank you to a commentator in this site, I added a message to it like this: “It all clicked into place the moment I saw your comment!” After a while, I came across an article about the ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Does “flattered” have a negative meaning in this context?

When I finished my business trip, my customer unexpectedly invited me to his home for dinner. Can I say "I am flattered" to show my unexpectation of their kindness? And what else can I say in this ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Can “No thanks” be used in place of “No need to say thanks”?

A colleague did some work for me (which was his job anyway) and when I said thanks, he said "no thanks". I was puzzled, and asked why he said that. He told me that an American once told him that ...
15
votes
5answers
5k views

How should I address a professor in the US?

I am always puzzled about how students address a professor in America. Perhaps "Professor + Last name" is the most formal way to do. Here are my questions: What if the last name of a professor is ...
3
votes
2answers
469 views

Letter-writing tone as perceived by other nationalities

A question that has been bugging me for quite a while was raised by some communication between my employer and a partner organisation based in Dubai. It turned out that more than once, it's been ...
1
vote
3answers
860 views

“Writer's writer” — who can say it?

When someone says: This author is a writer's writer. I understand that as meaning the author is accomplished and generally excellent. It's a bit fuzzy in my mind how it can mean this, but I can ...
10
votes
10answers
17k views

Polite way to refuse to answer a question

It sometimes happens that I am asked a question which I am uncomfortable answering for a variety of reasons (it invades my privacy, the answer may hurt the person asking, it is painful for me to ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Is the expression “to float someone's boat” possible outside of “Whatever floats your boat”?

According to the Urban Dictionary, the expression "whatever floats your boat" means [...] whatever "soothes your soul" or whatever "works best" Aka- Whatever you feel like doing. Is it possible ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

When to use decline for polite refusal and when not to

In a business English class: One of my students said: "I decline your report." I said that was wrong, but I couldn't think of a concrete reason, or rule for when I can use decline as a polite ...
9
votes
6answers
42k views

Madam vs. Ma'am

I suspect that the answer to this depends on region, so insights from multiple areas would be beneficial: It has been my impression that in the US addressing a woman as "Madam" is considered ...
1
vote
2answers
3k views

Polite way of calling someone for help

At work, how can I say "whenever you are ready I am ready." I would like to say "I am ready so please help me when you are available." Here is my full email: Hello #### Whenever you are ...
10
votes
7answers
5k views

When is it appropriate or disrespectful to refer to someone as “she”?

My boss has asked me not to refer to her as she because she says it's disrespectful. After I refer to her by her proper name or by her title, isn't it appropriate to refer to her as she?
0
votes
6answers
6k views

Replying to a favour done by someone

Some people did me a big favour. What should I ask them after their help? I have tried to ask directly, using the following sentences: What would you like me to do to pay back what I owe you? ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the “superlative” way of expressing “thank you”

On rare occasions, you are in a situation where a simple Thank You seems like you're undermining the other person's help. You know, instances where you are too grateful to express your feelings of ...
29
votes
8answers
20k views

“Toilet”, “lavatory” or “loo” for polite society

My friend is trying so hard to fit into polite society, and is raising her child to say loo rather than toilet. I know it should be lavatory (and I would not say lav) but we are in the 21st century ...
4
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a short phrase that expresses sincere thankfulness to someone who takes time to help me?

When I want to express my thankfulness to someone who takes time to help me, I would say: 您辛苦了 in Chinese, or お疲れ様でした in Japanese. Imprecisely, this means: You have taken a lot of ...
20
votes
11answers
4k views

Is “chubby” offensive?

I said to a person that she is "chubby" and, apparently, she took it very seriously. What I meant to say is that she's not skin and bones, she carried more pounds than needed but, precisely because of ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Is there any situation where I should use ‘Thank you’ instead of ‘Thanks’?

The EL&U’s archives told me ‘thanks’ is slightly more informal than ‘thank you’. I’d like to get a little more specific info. I’m now reading Harry Potter series and came across the following ...
1
vote
5answers
4k views

What is the opposite of “Could you talk a little louder”?

In a conversation, when I don't hear someone, I usually say: Could you talk a little louder please? However, what should I say if: Someone is being very loud in the other room when talking on ...
6
votes
3answers
6k views

Can “Sure” be used to respond to “Thanks”?

I often hear "Sure" in response when I say "Thank you" or "Thanks" to someone. I don't know — is this correct usage? If it is considered good, I'll use it someday.
19
votes
7answers
45k views

What is the meaning of “don't mention it” (in response to “thank you”)?

I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of ...
6
votes
3answers
713 views

Is “girls” a suitable complementary term to go along with “guys”?

Trying to keep the discussion about language and meaning, and hopefully not getting socio-political, is "girls" a valid counterpart for "guys", as in "guys and girls"? The intention is to describe a ...
6
votes
2answers
18k views

“Thanks” or “thank you”?

Which one is correct — "Thank you Jim" or "Thanks Jim"? If I start an email with the sentence "Thank you Jim" in Outlook, it shows grammar error while if I begin with "Thanks Jim" it doesn't.
6
votes
5answers
29k views

What is a polite way to decline an invitation to hang out with someone?

If someone asks me to do something with them and I don't want to do that activity, how can I tell them "I don't want to hang out with you tonight" and not hurt their feelings? Normally I say ...
1
vote
4answers
1k views

Asking a permission to ask a question by saying the word Question, followed by the actual question

My Mom does something that irks me. Either when she calls me, or sends me an e-mail, she says or writes "Question." Then asks whatever question it is. I find this rude. In my opinion starting the ...
3
votes
3answers
833 views

What is the polite way to acknowledge a pregnant lady after a long hiatus? [closed]

I knew her well, but I see her again when she's 7-months pregnant. Do I say, "Congrats on the upcoming baby?"
2
votes
6answers
2k views

How can I greet a group of teachers?

Suppose I'm walking in my school corridor and there are 4–5 teachers standing in the hallway. How can I greet them all at once? Anything better than "Greetings, teachers"?
55
votes
13answers
8k views

Is there a polite alternative to “No thanks, I'm full”?

English is not my native language, but when I was studying in the US, I was always trying to find an alternative to I'm full! I felt that it was a very improper way to express that I have eaten ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

How rude is “to eat like a pig”?

How rude is it to say : People eat crabs like a pig. Maybe it's not rude in plural sense like the above example but when you talk directly to someone? Also other terms which relate humans to ...
18
votes
4answers
17k views

“you” versus “You” as polite form of writing

Is it correct to write "You" with a capital Y as a form of politeness? If yes, should I use that form throughout the entire letter/document, or only at specific places?
6
votes
6answers
39k views

How do you respond back to “Hi, How is it going?”

I have observed that people from America, greet by asking, "Hi, how is it going?". I usually say, "It is going good" and return a smile. Sometimes, I have observed people saying "Thank you" and ...
6
votes
5answers
2k views

Are “Conditional apology” and “poisoned apology”, rude?

I've heard I'm sorry your frog is dead. I'm sorry if your frog's death causes you pain. I'm sorry my taunting you about your frog's death caused you pain. You should seek therapy. Do the ...
12
votes
5answers
4k views

What are the polite and neutral versions of “cut the bull*’?

I was wondering what are the polite and neutral versions of cut the bullshit? Suppose one calls his mobile customer service for signal problem, but the representative endlessly tries to promote ...
4
votes
3answers
3k views

Correct response to “Pardon me”

My young son recently started saying "Pardon me" after, for example, burping. We try to praise, or at least respond, when he does something right, as encouragement and as a form of learning. This ...
8
votes
2answers
37k views

Is “nice to meet you” an appropriate online salutation?

When one makes a new acquaintance with somebody in person, you may say "it was nice to meet you", e.g. when you leave. What if you make a new acquaintance over the internet, what do you say when you ...
5
votes
2answers
8k views

“Thanks for having me”

Recently, I finished my phone job interview with the phrase "Thanks for having me". It was a reply to the other person's "Thank you for your time". So, does "thanks for having me" sound alright in ...