Volume 2 Issue 90| September 25, 2010 |


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Learners' Club

Giving orders and instructions

How can you ask someone to do something for you in English without sounding rude? Here are some of the ways that you can give orders and instructions.

1. Use the imperative form
We use the imperative form to give orders, warnings and advice:
Be quiet!
Take care!
Listen to me carefully!

Because it can sound rude to give direct orders (especially if you are talking to an adult), we "soften" the imperative form with "let's" or "please":

Let's go now.
Please listen to what I'm saying.

2. Use a modal verb to turn the order into a request
We use modals to change the mood of a sentence. For example, "You should help her" is more polite than "Help her!"

Other modal verbs you can use to make requests are:
Could: Could you make me some tea?
Can: Can you come here please?
Will: Will you shut the door please?
Would: Would you wait here until the doctor is ready for you?

3. Use an introductory phrase to soften the order
Instead of using an imperative, you can use a phrase instead. Here are some common ways of phrasing an order, in order of the most indirect to the most direct:
Would you mind possibly… (+ ing) (Most indirect)
Would you mind possibly moving your car? It's parked right in front of mine.

I was hoping you could … (+ infinitive without to)
I was hoping you could spare me a few minutes this morning.

Do you think you could … (+ infinitive without to)
Do you think you could do this photocopying for me?

If you have a couple of minutes spare…
If you have a couple of minutes spare, the office needs tidying up.

I'd like you to…
I'd like you to file this correspondence for me.

I want you to…
I want you to finish this by tomorrow.

4. Use sequencing words
You can use sequencing words to make instructions clear.
Firstly, make sure the appliance is disconnected.
Secondly, open the back with a screwdriver.
Then, carefully pull out the two black cables….

How to choose your English tenses
Using the correct tense and verb form is important in English grammar. Here's a simple rule to help you choose which tense to use - which tense you use depends on how you see the event or action.

Routine or permanent situations
- use the simple form. For example, "I live in London" tells you that "live" is true all the time - London is my home.

"I lived in the countryside when I was a child" - this was a long-term situation in the past.

Temporary or continuing situations
- use the continuous form. For example, "I'm working as a secretary at the moment" - the job isn't permanent and maybe I'm doing it for a while until I get another job.

"House prices are rising" - they are continuing to rise and haven't stopped rising yet.

"She was wearing a black dress" - she put it on before I saw her and she still wore it after I saw her - wearing the dress continued over a period of time.

Connecting different times
- use the perfect form to show that one event was completed before another, or to show that one situation continues from one time to another.

For example, "I have lived here for two years" - I started to live here two years ago and I still live here.

"I will have finished the report before next week" - some time before next week, but I don't know exactly when.

"He had studied law before he met her" - he studied law before he met her, but we don't know when.

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