Is there a right or wrong way to ask someone to do something? The other day I said to my husband, "Do you think you can fax this paper for me?" He said that was insulting and I should say "Can you fax this paper for me?" Thoughts??

  • 3
    Technically, can you fax this paper is still questioning his ability to do something. I think you were polite (and not overly so) in the way you asked. People often use "Do you think you can" instead of "please". Would you please... or would you mind... might strike him as more appropriate perhaps. Oct 2, 2014 at 20:28
  • @anongoodnurse I tend to agree: for simple tasks in which the questioner already knows the answer "Do you think [that] ... ?" may come across as patronising or passive-aggressive. It is positively insulting in such use as "Do you think you could get up off your backside and actually do some work?"
    – Greybeard
    Oct 14, 2021 at 10:19

2 Answers 2


A- "Do you think " is used for asking someone politely to do something.


Do you think you could pass me my bag?

Do you think you can fax this paper for me?.... is not impolite or insulting.

B- "Do you think " is used for asking someone's opinion


Do you think we'll get this finished on time?

And why not keep the request simple and pleasing to the ear.

Please, can you fax....

Can you fax...please.

  • 1
    If you get too polite, you risk people will see it as sarcasm - and honestly, I would not take lightly to someone expressing doubts about my ability to use a fax-machine.
    – oerkelens
    Oct 2, 2014 at 16:12
  • yes, you may be right. "Too humble is half proud.
    – Misti
    Oct 2, 2014 at 16:59
  • 'Do you think you could ...' is acceptable as a polite form, but context and delivery are, as ever, important. 'Would you ... please?' is perhaps safest. Oct 14, 2021 at 11:39

I would argue that "do you think" for such trivial tasks is patronising, and the natural answer is "of course I can but do you want me to?" My sister is guilty of using this with me and I tell her everytime, just say "please can you...". That is soooo much better.

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