5 question phrases to sound more polite.

In mails or on the phone, I’m sure you will have read/heard natives use the following when asking about something/for information. Often they don’t want to come across ‘too direct’ or maybe the situation is more formal.

“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 …..?”

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, let’s say, “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. Check out some other questions.

Direct: “What is your ETA in Düsseldorf?”
Indirect: “Would you mind letting me know what your ETA is?”

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

Direct: “What did you earn in Q2 (= 2nd quarter)?”
Indirect: “Would you mind telling me what you earned in Q2?”

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

What becomes clear is the grammar of the ‘indirect’ question changes. Put simply the ‘indirect’ question form goes like this:
“I was wondering what line of business you are in?”
Indirect add on “I was wondering ..” + question words “what line of business …” + normal sentence structure “..you are in”? When the helping verbs are ‘to be’ ‘to have (got)’ they just swap places with the pronoun (you)

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: “What part of town do you live in?”
Indirect: “I was wondering what part of town you live it?”

Unfortunately, I don’t really see or hear many foreigners actually use the phrases “Do you happen to know …?” and “I don’t suppose you know …..?” (unless they are really advanced speakers and/or spent time abroad). Even if they sound strange to your ears – it’s like music to ours. Try them out!!!!.

to come across (wirken), “Do/would you mind…(telling) .. ?” (Haben Sie was dagegen ….), “I was wondering if/whether/what ..?” (Ich frage mich), “Do you happen to … (know) …?” (Hier. Wissen Sie zufällig), “I don’t suppose you … (know) …?” (Hier. Wissen Sie zufällig), ETA = Estimated Time of Arrival (voraussliche Ankunftszeit)

This post was checked by Grammarly.

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