Is there a difference in the degree of politeness between saying 'I request that you...' and 'Could you, please, ...'? I realize that I could say 'I kindly request...' or 'I would like to kindly request...'.

WHY I ASK FOR CLARIFICATION: Someone is using word 'request' on a regular basis without words 'could you', 'would you', 'please' or 'kindly' and whom I suggested to consider using softer forms of language in communication with others (not necessarily with me).

That person sent me back the following explanation:



Noun An act of asking politely or formally for something.

Verb Politely or formally ask for.

Nothing "rough edge" about that, is there? This is actually a word used often everywhere, as I had received communications with it from my OT school and jobs and from friends. So perhaps maybe it's just rough edge for you?

  • You've done a good job asking this question. That said, I think it would have been an even better fit at the English Language Learners community. – J.R. Feb 10 '13 at 16:51
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    A good example of appropriate question. May seems very simple and basic at first look but It is not! Thanks! – Persian Cat Feb 10 '13 at 18:04
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    A request, as opposed to a demand, is usually polite. The verb request, however, feels much stronger. – Anonym May 19 '14 at 2:06

I request that you . . . is extremely formal, and unlikely to be heard much in speech. Expressions like Could you, please, . . .? and Would you mind . . .? are what are normally used in conversation, and are perfectly polite.

  • Thank you, Barrie. My understanding is in line with your explanation. – user1115798 Feb 10 '13 at 17:38
  • Barrie, so would you say that outright 'request' is somewhat of the 'rough edge' in communication, being too formal, too dry and on the edge of direct demand? – user1115798 Feb 10 '13 at 17:43
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    @user1115798. I find it hard to imagine the verb request being used in any normal conversation, other than by the severely constipated. – Barrie England Feb 10 '13 at 19:56

Politeness depends on more than just language, and so could vary considerably from place to place and context to context.

While it's more polite than the bare form, because it states that it's a request rather than a demand, but not much more.

Really, it's appropriate for legalese where you want to tone things down from an outright demand ("we request that you submit a complaint within 7 days", "we request that you read the terms and conditions before making an order"), but it's not very polite. (You would kindly request someone attend an event in a formal invite, not just request it).

  • Jon, thank you! I am glad my understanding was correct and I thought exactly as you explained. – user1115798 Feb 10 '13 at 17:39
  • Jon, would you say that outright 'request' is somewhat of the 'rough edge' in communication, being too formal, too dry and on the edge of direct demand? – user1115798 Feb 10 '13 at 17:44
  • It would really depend on the context. To a necessarily legal matter like terms and conditions, it smooths the edges, and would be polite. In a friendly matter, it's both too formal and not polite enough. In an polite but formal matter (such as a wedding invitation) it's a suitable level of formality, but not polite enough. – Jon Hanna Feb 10 '13 at 22:41

A request is indeed "An act of asking politely or formally for something."

However, that does not mean the word request must itself be used, and an imperative command sounds less polite than a standard question (with "please" and a question mark).


I share the same understanding of request. It sounds close to demand. My Indian colleagues use the term I request you to ...too often in the emails. I was irritated first. But later, I think that might be a translation from their Hindu, so I just ignore this tone.

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