For all the bosses out there – How to give very polite instructions in English

Politeness in English is something that many learners have problems with.  When giving in instructions to new members of staff, or people you don’t know very well, it can be very important to know how to ask politely   Luckily, this can be reduced to a few small phrases in English.  Here is a list of my favourite politeness phrases, which are particularly effective when giving instructions to people who you do not know so well:


Would you mind…?

This phrase is always followed by the -ing form

    ‘Would you mind taking a look at these invoices?’

    ‘Would you mind delegating the tasks to the rest of the team?’


If you wouldn’t mind…

This is another way of saying would you mind, it is also followed by the -ing form:

    ‘John, if you wouldn’t mind doing a bit of research into potential on-line marketing strategies for us…’

This form is especially good when delegating tasks to lots of different people at the same time.  It is a little more assertive than asking would you mind..?


If you would….for me, that would be great.

This is an interesting phrase.  Normally in English, you should not use if and would together.  However, when giving instructions, this is the only time you will see this.  Adding that would be great on the end of the sentence makes the phrase sound more friendly and polite.

    ‘If you would help me to sort out these papers, that would be great.

    ‘If you would move those boxes for me that would be great.


Do you want to…?

Of course, saying do you want to sounds like you are giving someone a choice in whether they want to do something as opposed to giving an instruction.  But this is a very common way to give instructions.  The idea is to say the sentence like a statement instead of a question, and then it sounds like a polite request.

    ‘Do you want to help me put these files into alphabetical order?’

    ‘Do you want to present the product to our visitors tomorrow?’


Could you ……, please?

This phrase is of course a classic, and one you may have heard before.  Could is definitely a lot more polite than can’:

    ‘Could you open the window, please?’



Inserting the word just immediately after these phrases above is a useful tool to make a request sound even softer.  Here it doesn’t really mean anything, it just helps to make the sentence sound more polite:

Could you just bring me the final copy of the report so that I can check it?’

If you would just change the last slide of the presentation, that would be great.’

Would you mind just closing the window there? Thank you’


If you would like to have any of these phrases explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to comment below or email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace! Click here for more advanced Business English phrases!



 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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