I came across the phrase, “Can I persuade you?” in the following sentence of Jeffery Archer’s popular novel, “Kane & Abel” in the scene a Harvard graduate, ex-marine Bostonian, Henry Osborn invites the young widow of Boston millionaire, Anne Kane to concert:

" She is delighted, though not entirely surprised, when he telephoned her the following morning. ‘Boston Symphony Orchestra, Mozart, conducted by their flamboyant new maestro, next Monday – Can I persuade you?’”

Is “Can I persuade you” a common or well-used word for asking someone for the consent or positive answer, or just an ad hoc expression invented for this occasion?

Can I say “Could I persuade you?” instead of asking somebody “Do you agree with me?” after haranguing him?

  • Maybe you mean to ask them, "Did I persuade you?" meaning was all my haranguing successful in convincing you that I was right?
    – Jim
    Dec 28, 2012 at 1:39
  • 1
    Jim. Yes, I did. Dec 28, 2012 at 3:52
  • Why does a random group of words 'Can I persuade you' appear like a cliche? Have you been coming across that too often? Any other sources you can cite? If on the other hand you meant 'a set phrase', you may edit the question.
    – Kris
    Dec 28, 2012 at 6:20
  • 1
    Kris. See JWpat's answer. Ngrams for 'Can I persuade you' shows that it has occurred many times in many books, although it is more typically the beginning of a question, rather than a question by itself. Dec 28, 2012 at 7:45

4 Answers 4


“Can I persuade you” is not a cliché; that is, it is not “a phrase or expression that is overused or used outside its original context, so that its original impact and meaning are lost. A trite saying; a platitude”. Nor is it “an ad hoc expression invented for this occasion”. Ngrams for Can I persuade you shows that it has occurred many times in many books, although it is more typically the beginning of a question, rather than a question by itself. For example:

Can I persuade you to do that?
Can I persuade you to try one of our local wines?
Can I Persuade You?: The Power of Persuading and Influencing [a book title]

All in all, an ordinary phrase, used in a reasonable way.


No, don't use Could I persuade you when looking for agreement. Could I persuade you essentially means will you let me try to convince you.

Could I persuade you is used when the speaker assumes (or knows) that you aren't currently interested in what they have to offer but they think that you aren't so bent against it that they might be able to convince you if given a chance. Sometimes you will not even give them the opportunity to present their argument, but in other situations you might be willing to listen to what they have to say and maybe even change your mind.

Could I persuade you might also mean persuasion by gifts or other recognitions and not just logical argument. I suppose it could even be used, maybe a bit tongue-in-cheek, by a villain who's holding a gun to your friend's head.


When you say “Can I persuade you?”, you are saying more than “Do you agree with me?”. The following are additionally implicated:

  • It is not obvious that you should accept what I am proposing.
  • If you accept what I am proposing, it is because I have succeeded in persuading you.
  • If you admit to being persuaded by me, then you and I are people who see eye to eye, because we work by the same logic.

As is hinted by the excerpt given in the question, the point of using the first variant rather than the second is, aside from informing or establishing agreement, to build intimacy between the two conversants. As other answers have suggested, the phrase could be used ironically when the situation evokes the opposite of intimacy.


"Can I persuade you" is usually used to offer the possibility of action or request participation. Consent didn't seem quite right at first, seeming too passive, but after thinking about it for a while, it's pretty much correct (as consenting is active). Consent is a far better description than 'agreement', the latter being too cognitive.

You might say:

Can I persuade you to try a desert.

Can I persuade you to take a walk with me.

or use it on its own like above. But it is always (mostly, there are no rules to these things) used to request that the other party does something. So it is not generally used like:

Can I persuade you that the earth is round.

as a positive reply would be simply an admission of irrationality. (You know if they argued for X you would be convinced, so you know that X is right, yet at the same time, as there is the possibility of persuasion, you do not think X is right)

"Could I persuade you?" is a very strange thing to say on its own. The only place I can think it might be used at all is in a very technical argument. In the form:

If I did persuade you of X, then could I persuade you of Y.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.