- English Grammar Class
- Coursebook: English Grammar in Use
- Unit: 37
- Topic: Modal Auxiliaries: Can/could/would you…
Asking people to do things (requests)
We use can or could to ask people to do things:
Can you wait a moment, please?
or Could you wait a moment, please?
Helen, can you do me a favour?
Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to the airport?
Note that we say Do you think you could … ? (not can):
Do you think you could take me to the station?
We also use will and would to ask people to do things (but can/could are more usual):
Helen, will you do me a favour?
Would you please be quiet? I’m trying to concentrate.
Asking for things
To ask for something, we use Can I have .. . ? / Could I have … ? or Can I get … ?:
(in a shop) Can I have these postcards, please? or
Can I get these postcards, please?
(during a meal) Could I have the salt, please?
May I have … ? is also possible:
May I have these postcards, please?
Asking to do things
To ask to do something, we use can, could or may:
(on the phone) Hello, can I speak to Steve, please?
‘Could I use your phone?’ ‘Sure.’
Do you think I could borrow your bike?
‘May I come in?’ ‘Yes, please do.’
May is more formal than can or could.
To ask to do something, you can also say Do you mind if I … ?
or Is it all right / Is it OK if I … ?:
‘Do you mind if I use your phone?’ ‘Sure. Go ahead.’
‘Is it all right if I come in?’ ‘Yes, of course.’
Offering to do things
To offer to do something, we use Can I … ?:
‘Can I get you a cup of coffee?’ ‘That would be nice.’
‘Can I help you ?’ ‘No, it’s all right. I can manage.’
Offering and inviting
To offer or to invite, we use Would you Like … ? (not Do you like):
‘Would you Like a cup of coffee?’ ‘Yes, please.’
‘Would you Like to eat with us tonight?’ ‘I’d love to.’
I’d Like … is a polite way of saying what you want:
(at a tourist information office) I’d Like some information about hotels, please.
(in a shop) I’d Like to try on this jacket, please.