Making requests in English

Making requests in English

Making requests in English. It’s true that us Americans are very direct giving answers and advice, however, when we need to request something, we usually take the indirect, more polite route. In Spanish, you would call this ‘haciendo pelota’ (kissing ass in English) but I promise it’s just built into us since childhood.


A simple request means you ask someone to do something they are expected to complete. The reader needs to comply with the request.

  • Can you call Carol and cancel tomorrow’s meeting please?
  • Would you mind picking Lucia up from school today?

Sometimes a simple request is more like a reminder.

  • Could you please send me that report I asked for?
  • So, can you drop by after work?


You have decided to use these phrases as they are the most appropriate for the situation. Now, let’s use them properly.


Remember that ‘could’ is more polite than ‘can’. This is the only difference between the two words.

  • Can + subject + please + infinitive without to + object
    • Can we please call him?
  • Can + subject + infinitive without to + object + please
    • Can John look for the cat please?
  • Could + subject + please + infintive without to + object
    • Could you pease tell me you name?
  • Could + subject + infinitive without to + object + please
    • Could she stop singing please. I can’t concentrate.


To learn more about the different uses of the phrase ‘Would you mind?, click here.

  • Would + subject + mind + gerund (+object)
    • Would you mind going? I’m very busy.
    • Would he mind finishing up early tonight?


When we ask people for favors or big requests, remember to use more polite language or they are less likely to say yes.

Asking for favors and big requests means that the reader does not need to comply with your request.

  • I was wondering if I could take the day off tomorrow.
  • Do you think Clare might be able to cover me?
  • I was hoping she could give three classes.


As was the case previously, it is important to know how to properly use these expressions.

Was/were wondering if…

Here we are using an indirect question to request something. To learn more about indirect questions, click here.

  • Subject + was/were wondering + if + request (could + infinitive without to + object)
    • I was wondering if you could help me with this project.
    • I was wondering if Joe could take my place.
    • Paul was wondering if Ann could purchase the materials.
    • We were wondering if your team could give us a hand.

Do you think …

Here there are two versions. ‘Do you think you could‘, which is less polite than ‘Do you think you might be able to‘. However, both are good options. Since you are asking someone directly, we always start with ‘Do YOU think…’. If you ask ‘Does Carol think … ‘, we are asking someone for their opinion and it is no longer a request.

  • Do you think + person + could + infintive without to (+ object)
    • Do you think you could come over?
    • Do you think that Jennifer could finish my part?
  • Do you think + person + might be able to + infinitive without to (+object)
    • Do you think I might be able to take Monday off?
    • Do you think Martin might be able to do it?

I was hoping…

Here we can make a request for ourselves or for someone else. Since this is not a direct question, it may be unclear sometimes that this is a request, but it is!

  • Subject + was hoping (+that) + person + could + infintive without to (+object)
    • I was hoping I could leave early today.
    • Emma was hoping that you could send her the homework.

Writing Rules

Now that you have seen Making requests in English, take a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing Rules: C1 Advanced Writing
Writing Rules: Formal and informal emails

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