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While the answer to my question may be considered highly subjective, I can't help but feel like there's an extremely neutral way to reply to the phrase I'm inspecting.

The question normally frustrates me because I see it as a trap: if I reply, "Sure!" or "Absolutely," I'll end up committing myself to something without knowing what it is. On the other hand, if I decline, I'd be refusing exposure to something that may be beneficial -- plus, the one asking may see me as close-minded (not that it matters).

So I'm looking for a reply that falls between an absolute decline and absolute blind acceptance.

closed as primarily opinion-based by MetaEd, tchrist, waiwai933 Jan 12 '14 at 15:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This is requesting advice in interpersonal skills. It has nothing to do with English. – tchrist Jan 12 '14 at 4:44
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    Probably the simplest thing to do is stall. "Depends. What is it?" is certainly neutral, and not unfriendly, but also noncommittal. – John Lawler Jan 12 '14 at 4:47
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    @JohnLawler That's a good one. Thanks. If you write that in an answer post, I'll accept it. – Mr_Spock Jan 12 '14 at 4:48
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    Now what?! a la Gen. Halftrack. – Kris Jan 12 '14 at 7:00
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    If the question is from a friend I'd say: "If I can, sure." Adding a little extra stress on the word can to show willingness. – Mari-Lou A Jan 12 '14 at 11:15
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What about just "perhaps"? (Padding here.)

  • I actually like this answer because I can see myself replying (casually) with "maybe" or "perhaps." Perfect. It took a long time to settle on an answer. This is it. We're taking it to the top! – Mr_Spock Nov 9 '14 at 21:43
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Try, "How may I help you?" Then you may either accept or decline without having committed.

  • That would be good professionalism. However, I would certainly not use it in a casual request by a friend. :P – Double U Jan 12 '14 at 5:11
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    "What can I help you with?" "What can I do for you?" "What do you need?" Would all be fine with a friend. – Elliott Frisch Jan 12 '14 at 5:15
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The best response I have ever heard was "Go on..." after which the speaker waited for the favor-asker to make their case. This would also be a suitably noncommittal response to "May I offer you some advice?"

And yes, I have been watching "Downton Abbey." ;)

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Uh... I think this question has more to do with etiquette than language. In your case, you want to know what is the most appropriate manner to express the request to receive more information about the other person's request before you accept or decline it. In that case, I'm just going to be straightforward and answer the request with a question.

  1. What is this request about?
  2. Can you tell me more about this request?
  3. What exactly do you want me to do if I accept?
  • I think you missed the point of my question. It's actually that I don't want to quickly decline. I want to know what I'm getting myself into before accepting the invitation/request. I don't know what the favor is, so I don't want to say "yes." And I don't want to just turn my head away from something I can possibly benefit from without knowing what it is first. What's the best response to suit my ideal? – Mr_Spock Jan 12 '14 at 4:27
  • @Mr_Spock edited answer. – Double U Jan 12 '14 at 4:38

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