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In business, we often have to ask someone to do something for us. There are many different ways of making requests in English; some requests are direct and others are indirect. In general though, the more indirect your request, the more polite it will sound. And unsurprisingly, indirect requests generally include more words than direct requests. In some cultures it may seem strange to use such polite language, but in western culture, it's very important to be as polite as possible, especially if you are asking someone to do something for you or requesting information from them.

In general, the language of a request becomes more polite if you are asking a big favour, and/or if you are speaking in a more formal situation to someone, perhaps to your superior at work or to a customer or client. When speaking to friends and colleagues in informal situations, however, requests tend to be shorter and more direct.

In this podcast lesson, you’re going to listen to a number of short conversations in which the speakers make different types of requests. Pay attention to the language of each request. At the same time, consider the relationship between the two people speaking as well as the nature of each request.

Situation 1

In the first situation, Rachel asks her boss, Mr Green, if she can have a day off work. Since she has a fairly formal relationship with her boss, she must be extra polite when asking this favour.