Tag Archives: modal verbs

10 Levels of Politeness in English

10 Levels of Politeness in English

Imagine the scene: a young couple arrive home after a long day at work. One of them is hungry. There are many different ways to get what you want in English, but being polite will probably be the most effective way. But how polite should you be? Look at the following levels of politeness, and decide which level is the most appropriate:


1. Dinner!

2. Make dinner!

3. Make dinner, please.

4. Can you make dinner, please.

5. Could you make dinner, please.

6. Could you possibly make dinner, please.

7. Could you possibly make dinner, please, if you have time.

8. Could you possibly make dinner, please, if you have time – if you don’t mind.

9. I was wondering whether you could possibly make dinner, please, if you have time – if you don’t mind.

10. Sweetheart – I was wondering whether you could possibly make dinner, please, if you have time – if you don’t mind.


Answer: Level 5 or 6 would be fine in this situation, while Levels 1-4 are too direct and may sound rude, because they are orders. In general, English ears hate to hear the imperative voice (giving orders). Levels 7-10 are maybe too polite and too formal for a young couple who know each other well, especially considering the context of making dinner at home. As you can see, the more words and clauses in the sentence, the more polite and the less direct it becomes.

Source: EnglishBanana.com ESL Blog

Image: https://pixabay.com

Teaching Blog – Day 1 (30.03.18)

I’ll start this teaching blog by talking about the two latest teaching resources that I’ve uploaded to the site. I completed a lesson all about Modal Verbs yesterday and added it to the site. I’m really happy about it because, along with containing plenty of new material, it brings together – and breathes new life into – two older resources that I think really work well:

Modal Verbs Revision – Complete Pack

26 Uses of Would – Complete Pack

When I created these resources a few years ago I spent hours researching each one, and learned so much about modal verbs – and would, in particular – in the process. That’s the great thing about writing resources for teaching English – you increase your subject knowledge massively by doing the research and testing the materials in class. Each worksheet pack has an accompanying podcast too.

Writing about ‘would’ was especially interesting, because who would have thought there would be 26 uses of ‘would’? You might say, who needs to know that many uses of would. But anyway, here it is again, along with a lot of straightforward information about modal verbs – and new examples for each modal verb. I particularly like the blank tables for each modal verb (in Exercises) that you can print out and get students to complete. (For homework?)

Today I had the notion to create a new wordsearch for the website. They take about an hour to write and I’m trying to rack up a collection of them. When I’ve used them in class (my classes are sometimes in a computer lab) the students really liked them. One group of three particularly keen teenage girls were able to complete three of the puzzles in a very short space of time! (Not that we spend whole lessons doing wordsearch puzzles.)

I was going to do one on ‘clothes’ or ‘furniture’ or another such ESOL-ly subject, but then I thought: what about Brexit? The words started coming immediately: Michel Barnier, Nigel Farage, March Twenty Ninth (2019), Remainer, Brexiteer, and so on! I had to get to work right away. You can do the wordsearch puzzle here.

I never think it’s relevant to talk about my political views when I write resources and blogs and create website, so I don’t really want to do that here. I wonder if you can guess from the wordsearch what side of the Brexit fence I’m on? Answers on a postcard (made in Britain), please.

NEW! Find out about Modal Verbs!

I’ve just finished a new lesson about modal verbs. 🙂

You can check it out now!

Lesson 5.4 Modal Verbs