I'm an English teacher working with an advanced student. They asked me to teach them how to ask for help or support when things aren't going they way they should. I decided to teach him that it is often best to use indirect speech when asking for help, and these two sentences arose in my planning:

  1. I’m afraid my food isn’t heated thoroughly, could you please bring it back to the kitchen

  2. My food is cold, please take it back to the kitchen.

I naturally switch between "bring back" and "take back" in the polite, and less polite versions. If I play and switch them around, each sentence sounds more or less polite, accordingly. Is this just me thinking too hard, or is there some basis for this?

  • 4
    In the first example sentence, the use of "bring it back" would imply to me that the speaker was in the kitchen. Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 9:50
  • (1) doesn't work as a paraphrase, as @Killing Time says, and it's hard to see where paraphrases could be used. // Your triple hedging in (1) ('I’m afraid ... ', 'could you', as well as the 'please') makes any comparison infelicitous here. // You probably have a point; 'take' sounds inherently more abrupt/confrontational than 'bring' (back my Bonny to me?) Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 10:39
  • There's also the 'dismissive' flavour of take as opposed to the 'accepting' hint of bring. Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 11:22
  • 2
    If the food had been exceptionally wonderful rather than cold you could have said "Please take my compliments to the chef". Nothing to do with politeness or otherwise, everything to do with the direction of travel.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 12:12
  • @EdwinAshworth I think you've captured the essence of my feeling with that, but I think that the nuance of that sensation gets lost behind the "direction of travel" aspect that everyone else is focusing on. Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 10:10

1 Answer 1


Observation: “Take back” is used in impolite speech, while “Bring back” is used in polite speech. Is there any basis to this?

None whatsoever.

Both are the imperative form.

To take usually implies away from the speaker. To bring usually implies towards the speaker.

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