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I was reading somewhere that Americans find the word request to be a rude gesture. You must directly ask them a question instead of using the word "request".

For example, in this Quora post, "Don't request, ask a question":

I get emails with lines like this fairly often:

  • I request you to share your ideas on various options.
  • Request you to make necessary changes or take action on that.
  • I kindly request you to verify my resume.

Be aware that, in this context, "request" will come off as aggressive and rude to most Americans (and, quite possibly, to people in the UK too).

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    This is a matter of pragmatics. 'request' is not rude in and of itself (or rather when out of context, its primary meaning is not 'rude'. Did you check a dictionary to see if it has any rude connotations? Please edit your question to add that). But often in the contexts it is used (formal) the whole statement might be presumptuous and therefore may make people feel poorly. 'Rude' is probably too strong, but that might be an exaggeration of what is felt by those getting the 'request'. – Mitch Jan 4 at 16:14
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    It's not (IMHO as a native US English speaker) rude, it's just stilted, as though the author is either not a native speaker, or is trying to be excessively formal. (The excessive formality itself might be considered a bit rude, though.) – jamesqf Jan 4 at 18:03
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    jamesqf has the key point. I have never in my life heard anyone preface a request with "I request...". My old passport was prefaced with :"Her Britannic Majesty requests and requires that" everybody should let me pass "without let or hindrance". We do not ask for stuff in that way. Politeness has nothing to do with it. – Tuffy Jan 4 at 18:15
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    @WS2 Probalby “Her B.M. ...begs and pleads...”? – Tuffy Jan 7 at 9:36
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As an American myself who lives with a British educated partner, we have discussions like this on a regular basis.

Before I get to my point of view on the question, I would like to point out that the Quora link you provided answers this question:

Used as a verb, the word "request" is only a small step back from "demand." In fact, it is a demand (Quora link)

To be more general here, as I have observed, Americans' usage of the English language is far less formal than the UK, most apparent in business situations and formal (nonlegal) documentation. In this sense I would venture to say that Americans see formality in an entire different perspective than our British counterparts. Whereas formality may be in line with British social structure and therefore polite, we on the other side see formality as distant and therefore unfriendly. Consequently, adding small bit of casualness is seen as more friendly and therefore more polite.

"Request" - an act of asking politely or formally for something (google defined)

Given what I just mentioned and what the Quora link states, the usage of "request" is not only direct and demanding, but overtly formal in an American’s eye, giving the word a double "no no" for US culture. So how do we Americans "request" for something? Request implies "to ask". Americans just ask. Less formal? Yes. More polite? Also yes.

The alternative for "Request" in US English: "Could"

"Could you do this and this?" etc, instead of "I request (that) you do this and this."

However, let’s say you must use the word "Request". Changing the word to its noun form "I sent a request...", adding polite redundancies, "I humbly request...", or phrasing it in a question (though redundant), "Could I request..." are the more polite American alternatives.

I hope this answers your question, and gives you a better understanding of the differences of British English and American English.

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    "a double "no no" " So a no no no no? – Acccumulation Jan 4 at 6:57
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    I don't think British usage is so different. "May I request you to...?" is more polite than "I request that you..." – Kate Bunting Jan 4 at 8:48
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    This sounds about right to me as a UK native. To me, "I request that you..." is a little more polite than "I ask that you...", and much more polite than "I demand that you...", because the extra formality implies that the person is being blunt and direct because of the situation, not a lack of personal respect (but, if the situation doesn't demand such formality, it sounds pretentious). Phrasing it as a question like "May I request that you..." is also much more polite (again, assuming the formality is appropriate). – user56reinstatemonica8 Jan 4 at 15:21
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    @jimmy It depends on the working culture and your relationship. If someone is formal with you, being formal back is appropriate. If they're informal and friendly in work exchanges ("Hey Jimmy buddy, how are the kids? Sorry to be a pain but it's kicking off over here, if can you send those files by 3pm that'd be awesome"), and your response is formal ("Dear Chuck. I will aim to do so. I request you answer my prior question dated 12th Dec regarding Shatner's Bassoon"), it may feel like a knock-back with an implied "Don't act like you're my friend, I only interact with you because I must". – user56reinstatemonica8 Jan 4 at 15:32
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    Interesting flip side: As a U.S. native, many of my friends/acquaintances from abroad have expressed confusion or irritation that American informality has routinely "tricked" them into thinking certain people were their friends when they really weren't. – Daniel R. Collins Jan 4 at 19:24
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It should be noted, first, that the word request is not, even arguably, rude when used to describe an act of requesting that was performed on another occasion. For example, nobody is going to be offended by being told ‘Yesterday, I requested that XYZ Corporation send us . . . ’ or ‘In response to your request of January 3rd . . . ’. What may be perceived as rude is only its use in the very act of performing a request, i.e. in the locutions of the form ‘I request that you . . . ’.

What makes these locutions grating is not so much the presence of the word request, as that of I. By saying ‘I request’, I am asserting myself and my right to request things, while politeness generally requires that one speak in a self-effacing way, particularly when imposing a burden on somebody else. The polite ways of formulating requests avoid not only the word request, but also I: ‘Could you, please . . . ’, ‘Would it be possible . . . ’. These self-effacing ways of formulating a request soften the imposition that I am making on you by my request. Even if I have an authority over you, good manners require that I don’t rub it in.

Formulations ‘I (hereby) request’ do have their place, but that is only in the contexts in which the need for perfect clarity takes precedence over politeness, that is, in legal documents.

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    I think you have got nearer to the point than other answers by identifying the use of 'I' as the source of the problem. Any request starting with "I request that you..." with its inevitable subjunctive sounds not so much rude as laughably formal. A person going into a shop and saying to the counter assistant "I request half a kilo of your brie and a half a kilo of the gouda", will cause laughter rather than offence. Why ever not just ask for it? So will anyone who in conversation says "I state that it is a fine day today" will similarly sound ridiculous. – Tuffy Jan 4 at 18:06
  • I think your first paragraph is spot-on: It's not the word request, but the way the request is performed, that is considered rude. Your 2nd paragraph is accurate in that one needs to soften the request, though that doesn't always correlate with not using I. I'm searching for an example... – LarsH Jan 7 at 3:18
  • For example, "Could I have a half a kilo of the gouda?" is fine. – LarsH Jan 7 at 3:29
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Other answers have hinted at this, but I think the main reason that your examples sound rude is that they're not questions, not because of the word request itself. They don't give the recipient an easy way of saying no. In fact, since they're statements of fact (I am requesting X of you), they don't even really give an opening for a reply.

A question is more polite because you take it on yourself to create a socially acceptable way of saying no. Consider your first example rephrased as a question:

I request you to share your ideas on various options.
Could I request that you share your ideas with me?

The second sounds more polite (despite using request), because I'm not closing off the option of saying no.

The word request itself plays some part, because it doesn't lend itself to questions as much as it does to statements. Therefore, it's more likely to pop up in more direct, less polite forms.

Finally, note that even though it's less polite, the direct form is often used in formal settings, when clear demands need to be made. "We request that you pay by the end of the month", is plenty polite for a business letter, but the context needs to be there for the sender to make demands of the recipient.

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There is not usually a why to such questions. Languages and etiquette systems evolve in a highly chaotic manner. I suspect most cultures have both curt and gentle ways of making requests and English-speaking cultures are certainly among them.

The phrasing "I request ______" is too direct and too formal-sounding. It's too direct in that it seems strong, and a "No" seems very unwelcome. "I hereby request..." sounds like a legal filing or something, which adds unwanted gravity to the situation.

Phrasing as a question helps, but it's not as a direct question, like you say, but rather as an indirect question. The fiction is that we aren't even suggesting someone do something, but merely floating the notion while asking about others' preferences, putting their preferences first. "Would you be willing to read the document and give me your feedback?" "Could you ask Carla if she's coming tomorrow?" "Is it possible to get your phone number?" These sorts of indirect questions feel much lower-pressure. If taken literally, of course it's a bit silly.

There are also politeness markers for requests that don't involve question phrasing. "It would mean a lot to me if you reviewed my resume." "If you could so kindly hold the door for me."

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Just makes me (non-native English speaker in the United Kingdom) think of this one old saying that "the taking of offense rests in the bosom of fools".

Perhaps one might consider that rudeness is perceived in particular by those with little confidence or an unrealistically high self-esteem? Maybe some are quicker to feel intimidated? Personally, I'd answer 'no' as and when, thinking that anyone can request whatever they like: who am I to tell them they can't (try)? So far it's been the best way to be for me.

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