Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    CarloSsS's Avatar
    CarloSsS is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    629
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Politeness: distancing verb forms

    Hello, if I want to ask somebody if they're free tonight, there's a lot of ways of saying that. I came up with four and tried to order them from the most polite one to the least polite one. Could you check them for me please? Are they ordered from the most polite one to the least polite one? Are all of them natural? Supposing they're used in the right context.

    1. I wondered if you were free tonight. (the most polite of them)
    2. I was wondering if you were free tonight.
    3. I wonder, are you free tonight?
    4. I'm wondering, are you free tonight? (the least polite of them)

    I'm especially unsure of the second and third one. I'm not sure if past simple progressive is more polite/definite than present simple. e.g.: I was thinking that we could go out tonight. vs. I think that we could go out tonight.

  2. #2
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    9,498
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Politeness: distancing verb forms

    I'm wondering if you're putting too much thought into this.

    The point is to use one degree of distance from the question you are trying to act like you're not asking.

    I wouldn't say that any of your 4 forms are more or less "polite than the others." 2 is the most natural to me, followed by 4. 1 seems odd to me in the past tense.

  3. #3
    CarloSsS's Avatar
    CarloSsS is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    629
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Politeness: distancing verb forms

    Thank you Dave for your answer. I got that idea from Michael Swan's Practical Grammar in Use from a chapter where he explains these differences, but doesn't put all of them in contrast.
    Does anybody think otherwise? Or likewise?

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    22,771
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Politeness: distancing verb forms

    Quote Originally Posted by CarloSsS View Post
    Hello, if I want to ask somebody if they're free tonight, there's a lot of ways of saying that. I came up with four and tried to order them from the most polite one to the least polite one. Could you check them for me please? Are they ordered from the most polite one to the least polite one? Are all of them natural? Supposing they're used in the right context.

    1. I wondered if you were free tonight. (the most polite of them)
    2. I was wondering if you were free tonight.
    3. I wonder, are you free tonight?
    4. I'm wondering, are you free tonight? (the least polite of them)

    I'm especially unsure of the second and third one. I'm not sure if past simple progressive is more polite/definite than present simple. e.g.: I was thinking that we could go out tonight. vs. I think that we could go out tonight.
    As far as I'm concerned, your four examples have about the same degree of politeness or otherwise. I don't feel any difference between "I wonder" and "I'm wondering", or "I was thinking" and "I think".

    Formal: May I enquire if you have any free time this evening?
    Neither formal nor informal: Are you free tonight?
    Informal: Doing anything tonight?

  5. #5
    CarloSsS's Avatar
    CarloSsS is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    629
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: Politeness: distancing verb forms

    Thank you, that's what I wanted to know.

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] Verb and Forms
    By megy92 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 06-Nov-2011, 17:48
  2. verb forms
    By 4ania4 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 07-Jan-2011, 12:52
  3. [Grammar] help with verb forms
    By bobbijoe in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 07-Jun-2009, 11:20
  4. verb forms
    By thanhthanh.esl in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 14-Dec-2007, 04:11
  5. verb forms
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-Dec-2006, 23:20

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •