Speaking Politely in Canada
Are you polite by Canadian standards? Do you use ‘could’ and ‘would’ when asking for something?
Most Canadians are very polite people. You hear the words ‘sorry’, ‘excuse me’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every day. Children learn these words very early in their lives and could get upset if their immigrant parents are not polite enough.
But being polite is much more than just saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’. Immigrants need to be very careful with imperative forms. Imperative form of the verb is not a request – it’s an order! It sounds very rude. For example:
“Give me one copy.” (imperative form –> order)
“Could you give me one copy?” ( modal verb ‘could’ makes a polite request)
Immigrants sometimes think that if they add the word ‘please’ (“Give me one copy, please.”) it makes the sentence polite. It doesn’t. It’s still an order.
“Come here.” “Sit down.” “Take one.” “Wait here.” are all orders.
“Come here please.” “Sit down please.” “Take one please.” “Wait here please.” are all orders.
“Could you come here?” “Would you like to sit down?” “Would you like to take one? “Would you mind waiting here?” are polite requests.
It’s very easy to speak politely. You only need to learn these two verbs: ‘could’ and ‘would’.
Who needs to speak politely
70% of all jobs in Canada are customer service. If you have a customer service job, you need to speak politely. If you don’t want to lose your job, you need to speak politely to your customers and clients.
On the other hand, when you are the customer or the client, it’s your choice: you can choose to speak politely or you can choose to be rude. You are the person with the money in hand. So, if you go to a store and you say: “Give me that box” , the salesperson will give you that box. Because you are paying for it.
Which jobs are customer service jobs in Canada?
Nurse, bank teller, salesperson, LINC school teacher, cashier, receptionist and many more. Immigrants are often surprised that a nurse in Canada needs to be nice and polite. Or a mechanic who is fixing a car needs to talk politely to the customer.
No business wants to lose customers. When you go to the bank, if people who are working there are not nice and polite, you can change the bank and transfer your money to a different one. The bank wants your money – that’s why they are so nice and polite talking to you. It’s the same in every company, big or small.
Why speak politely? – 3 situations
- If you have a customer service job, speaking politely is the way to keep your job. If you are not nice with the customers and the company is losing business because of you, they can easily fire you.
- If you are the customer/client, being polite is your choice. As long as you are paying the money, the company will serve you.
- If you NEED something – a favour, someone’s help, etc. Asking politely will usually give you a better result! If you ask politely, more people will try to help you.
How to speak in different situations (standard phrases)
At a coffee shop: “Hi, can I get a medium coffee, one cream, two sugars?”
At a bank: “Hi, I’d like to withdraw some cash / deposit a cheque / pay my credit card bill.”
Calling doctors’ office (or any other place to make an appointment): “Hi, I’d like to make an appointment.”
At a grocery store: ” Excuse me, where can I find sugar?”
At the library: “Hi, I’m looking for a book…”
Asking for help (anywhere): “Excuse me, could you help me please? I need…”
Inviting someone: “Would you like to join us for a party?”
Talking to a guest in your house (offering): “Would you like something to drink? Tea or coffee? Would you like to have some cake?”
Asking for information: “Do you know where the nearest supermarket is?” “Do you have any idea where I can buy staples?”
Asking to do something: “Would you mind opening the window?” (or: “Would you mind if I open the window?”) “Could you please close the door?”
Giving a choice: “Would you prefer fish or chicken for dinner tonight?”
At a restaurant: “Can we get the bill please?”
Leaving early: “I’m sorry, I have to go now. I have to…”
Asking your manager for a day off: “Would it be possible to take Friday off? I have a doctor’s appointment.”