Question forms 2- How to sound more polite.

Question phrases to sound more polite


When you don’t want to come across ‘too direct’ use the following phrases to start your questions

“Could you possibly ……… tell me?”

“Do/would you mind ……… telling me?”

“I was wondering if/whether/what …?”

“Do you happen to ………… know …?”

“I don’t suppose you ………..know …..?”

“Have you any idea………… when/how…?”

“Are you able to tell me………when/if…?”


Imagine you meet someone and would like to find out about their work. You could use the ‘direct’ question form:


‘Direct’: “What line of business are you in?”
or you could add on “I was wondering” to form an ‘indirect’ question,
‘Indirect’: “I was wondering what line of business you are in?”

I’m sure you’ll agree it sounds a whole lot better for formal/polite and appropriate for the situation.

Direct: “Which company does Jack work for?”
Indirect: “Do you happen to know which company Jack works for?”

Direct: “What did you do last week?”
Indirect: “Would you mind telling me what you did last week?”

Direct: “I can’t find Jack anywhere. Where’s he disappeared to?”
Indirect: “I don’t suppose you know where Jack disappeared to?”

Direct: “What time is it?”

Indirect: “Do you happen to know what time it is?”

More often than not the direct question will have a ‘do/ does/ did etc’ as a helping verb in the direct question. In the indirect question you simply miss it out.

Direct: “Where do you live?”
Indirect: “I was wondering where you live?”

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