Polite Requests Using Verb + Infinitive
You've already seen the formula verb + infinitive in action in several different contexts. You've used
Though this sort of request is phrased as a yes-or-no question, you aren't really seeking a yes-or-no answer. This is just a polite way of asking someone to do something for you. Let's look at a few more verb + infinitive combinations for making polite requests.
(Do you want to tell me where the boss is?)
(Will you let me by, please?)
(Will you do us the favor of calling before you come?)
Of course, tone is a critical element in making polite requests. These same phrases can sound quite obnoxious if you use a demanding tone. Be careful of your intonation to ensure that your request is received as you intended.
Another Polite Request Strategy
Another very common way to make requests politely is to phrase them as simple questions. Instead of telling your colleague to send a fax for you, for example, you can soften the command by saying:
When making a request, be careful to conjugate the verb appropriately. If you are making a request of someone you don't know well, use the usted form. When you make requests of friends, use tú, vosotros, or ustedes. Remember that the second verb is always in the infinitive.
Polite requests are always appropriate, but particularly so in more formal situations, for example, when you are speaking with someone you don't know well. They are especially appropriate between an employer and employee because they maintain a tone of respect even though one person is telling the other what to do.
Let's imagine a parent giving instructions to a babysitter, a middle-aged woman named Elena. Listen to each example as you follow along in the text. Then repeat each polite request after you hear it. Pay close attention to intonation.
(Elena, will you do us the favor of preparing something for dinner?)
(Elena, can you bathe Susanita after eating, please?)
(Elena, do you want to read Susanita a story when she goes to bed?)
(Elena, will you call us if you have a question, please?)
Notice that the requests all use the
Responding to Polite Requests
So, how does one respond to a polite request? Of course, most responses will be in the affirmative, but you might have to say “no” in a polite manner. A simple
(Yes, with pleasure.)
(I'm sorry, I can't.)
(Unfortunately, I don't have time.)
(I'd like to help, but I can't.)
The affirmative responses are pretty straightforward. All you need to do is say
Practice: Polite Requests and Responses
Shall we try out some of these strategies? Use the cues to write polite requests and responses. The check your answers with the models in Appendix D.
¿poder / usted / llamar mañana / por favor? por supuesto / llamar mañana / con mucho gusto ¿querer / tú / explicarme / cómo funciona esto? lo siento / no sé / preguntar a Melena ¿hacerme el favor de / usted / mandar este paquete? cómo no / con mucho gusto ¿por favor / avisarme / tú / cuando llegue / el señor Gallardo? no poder / yo / salir temprano / tengo cita con el médico