Student or Learner
Can anyone please tell me the differences of can and will in requesting language?
e.g. Can you help me. Will you sign here, please.
Two more things, 1.If I use will to request I need to add please in every sentence, right? 2.Would it be impolite if there were not please in the question above "Can anyone please ..."?
Thank you in advance
Last edited by Supachoke; 19-May-2009 at 14:32.
According to technical definitions, "can" is a question of ability while "will" is a question of intent. "Can you help me?" asks if you are capable and able to help me. "Will you help me?" asks if you desire to do so. We often ask requests using "can" because it is polite to make sure that the person is first able to fill the request. Also, if they do not want to do it, it gives them the opportunity to make a polite excuse and say that they are unable to do it for one reason or another. (It is less polite to refuse a request just because you don't want to be helpful.) If they are capable, they will probably understand the implication that you wish them to do it and offer their services or go ahead and do what you asked. However, there is the rare person who will make you ask again:
A. Can you help me move this box?
B. Yes. (doesn't move)
A. Will you help me?
B. Okay. (moves the box)
If we make a request using "will", we have already assumed that the person is capable of doing what we ask. It might be a bit less polite, and I think it is becoming less common than the "can" request. If you are feeling polite, you might also consider asking "could" or "would" a person do the thing. Such language is less direct so it comes across as less demanding and therefore more polite.
1. It is good to use "please" in a "will" request if only to make clear that it is a request as opposed to a question of intent.
Will you sign the form? (Do you plan to sign the form?)
Will you please sign the form? (I want you to sign the form.)
You can put the please after the subject (Will you please sign the form?) or at the end of the request (Will you sign the form, please?). I think putting it after the subject emphasises the please. However, that does not mean that the request is more polite; it is phrased more pleadingly perhaps, and may sound closer to begging. In some cases, you can put the please at the very beginning (Please, will you sign the form?), although this is less common.
It is not neccessary for a "can" question, though it depends on the circumstances and the tone you wish to convey. I might be more likely to mix "could" with "please" than "can".