May 022009
 

taking_a_taxiAmericans have a reputation for plain speaking and I’ve found that some polite expressions with modals are used rather differently here.
When I get into a cab and ask the driver ‘Could you possibly take us to Independence Hall?’ my friends say, ‘Well of course he could Vicki. Otherwise we wouldn’t be getting into the cab’. So Americans seem to be more direct than me there.
But take another example. When my American husband has cooked my dinner he might ask ‘Would you like to clean up?’ ‘No thanks’ seems a perfectly logical answer to me. If he’d said ‘Would you clean up?’, the request would have been clearer to me, so who’s being more direct here?

 

 Posted by at 5:29 am

  5 Responses to “Polite modals”

  1. […] get their reputation for being direct from. It doesn’t seem to spring from their use of polite modals or indirect requests. Across the pond, someone else has been investigating a similar question about […]

  2. […] use whimperatives, and no doubt Canadians and Australians and other varieties too. I’ve mentioned some differences before, but one I’m still trying to work out is ‘really’. Compare these examples: British: […]

  3. […] other posts related to this:   Politeness    Whimpish Imperatives    Impositions    Polite modals  Posted by Vicki at 11:25 […]

  4. […] get their reputation for being direct from. It doesn’t seem to spring from their use of polite modals or indirect requests. Across the pond, someone else has been investigating a similar question about […]

  5. […] use whimperatives, and no doubt Canadians and Australians and other varieties too. I’ve mentioned some differences before, but one I’m still trying to work out is ‘really’. Compare these examples: British: […]

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