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Background

I was travelling with my clients( from US/Canada) when one of them graciously offered me a portion of Lindt bar. Since I wasn't sure what a polite response would be to a native speaker, I ended up refusing her offer saying

"Sorry, you please go ahead".

After the episode, while searching for an appropriate polite response, I came across this expression - "help myself to" which, according to The Free Dictionary, means

To serve or provide oneself with

Is it considered informal by native English speakers? For example, if I replied this way when she gave me a chunk....

I can certainly help myself to some Lindt now.

If yes, is there a better response?

closed as off-topic by Chenmunka, FumbleFingers, ab2, curiousdannii, jimm101 Feb 27 '16 at 15:04

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    This question would be better asked on ell.stackexchange.com – TRomano Feb 26 '16 at 11:49
  • "Should I have said...?" is an opinion question. How is this question related to the nuts and bolts of the English language? [If it is, can you edit it to make that clear, please?] – Andrew Leach Feb 26 '16 at 11:59
  • Looks better after your editing I think. – user140086 Feb 26 '16 at 12:40
  • Thanks @Rathony - I learned today that I should put myself in the shoes of readers and re-read my sentences before posting a question! – BiscuitBoy Feb 26 '16 at 12:42
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    If offered something to eat and you accept the offer, you can simply say, "Don't mind if I do! Thank you!" That is very common and idiomatic (at least it is in US) – Kristina Lopez Feb 26 '16 at 14:43
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In the situation you sketch, it is often about finding a good balance between formal/informal, eagerness/disinterest, especially when there is a business relationship between you and the other person.

A good approach that works for me is one where there is some surprise, some hesitance, and finally a heartfelt thank you, for example:

Ooh.. Are you sure? Hmm, thank you, I appreciate it!

While rejecting an offer might be seem like the most polite thing to do in some situations, accepting an offer can have its own rewards. For example, accepting/sharing food creates and/or promotes trust, plus there's the Ben Franklin-effect to consider, which might yield its own rewards further down the road.

//updated reply to include OP's later elaboration of the question//

Helping oneself to something would only be socially acceptable if that something was presented in a way that suggests that it's up for grabs. In the situation you initially described, helping yourself to some Lindt bar would make for a socially awkward situation, especially if the other person were still holding that bar. It can be seen as an invasion of privacy and/or a violation of someone's personal space and/or property.

"I can certainly help myself to some Lindt now." when you are offered or even handed a piece is not a contextually sound response.

Don't overthink it though - even if your response is a little off, if it's clear that you are non-native but are trying your best, I can't imagine your response backfiring on you that quickly.

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If the Lindt bar were sitting on the counter, you could say

I'll help myself to a piece of this chocolate bar.

But that locution does not work if you're being offered some by another person who is holding the candy in her hand.

This would be considered rudeness, or humor, or lunacy, depending upon your relationship with the person who has the candy:

I'll help myself to a piece of that candy bar you're holding.

  • What should I say in that case? – BiscuitBoy Feb 26 '16 at 12:39
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    Politeness dictates that you should make clear, but in a subtle manner, that it is OK for her to eat a piece of her own candy in your presence. You have to decide whether the best way to do that is to have a piece of it yourself, or to decline the offer in a manner that leaves her free to partake. "Yes, thank you, just a little piece." or "No, thank you. I had dessert at lunch...or a pastry at breakfast ..." or some such convenient excuse. If you feel that making the excuse could become unwieldy, then simpler to accept a small piece. And best not to drool in front of your boss :) – TRomano Feb 26 '16 at 12:49

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