At times, you will be in a work or business situation where you will need to ask somebody for help or to do something for you. Because it is the other person's decision to help you or not, you should always be polite and if possible explain why you need their help. If they don't want to do it, then you will have to try to convince them to say 'yes'.

In this online exercise, you will learn and remember phrases in English that are used when both asking for help and when trying to convince somebody to say 'yes'. These phrases can be used in both business and non-business situations.

Click here to go to an exercise on phrases used to say 'no' to a request for help.


Exercise: Asking somebody to do something

In the following two business situations, one person is asking another person to help them or do something for them. One of the situations is formal and the other is informal.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Situation 1

Sally:'Jessica, would you mind going to the supplier's meeting on Friday? I have another meeting and can't go.'

Jessica:'I'm afraid I can't. I'm really busy at the moment.'

Sally:'You know I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important. We need someone from our department there.'

Jessica:'I appreciate that, but I don't have the time. Sorry.'

Sally:'I'd really appreciate it.'

Jessica:'How long will the meeting last?'

Sally:'Two hours maximum.'

Jessica:'Ok.'

Sally:'You don't mind, do you?'

Jessica:'No, it's ok.'

Sally:'I can't thank you enough.'


Situation 2

David:'Can I ask you a favour?'

Ian:'What is it?'

David:'Could you give me a hand with this month's sales report. I need to finish it by tomorrow and I don't think I'll have time to do the graphs and tables. Could you do them?'

Ian:'Well, I'm busy and I have no idea of how to do a sales report.'

David:'You don't need to write the report, I just need you to do the graphs and tables.'

Ian:'As I said, I'm really busy.'

David:'It won't take long. I have all the data, I just need you to do 2 charts and 2 tables with it.'

Ian:'I'm sorry, I can't. Is that ok?'

David:'It's fine, I just thought I'd ask.'




Quiz: How to ask for help vocabulary

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...) and a Spanish translation. In the second, , is where you can listen to the word/phrase and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).


1.

A phrase that is used when you first ask someone for help, that includes the word 'ask', is

         

Can I ask you a favour:
(phrase) 'can I ask you a favour' is used when you first introduce the subject/topic of help to somebody. With this phrase, you don't actually say what you would like them to do. It is informal, so it shouldn't be used in formal situations, where 'would you mind doing something for me' is better. In Spanish: "te puedo pedir un favor?".

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Can I ask you a favour:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2.

A polite phrase that checks if the other person is ok with helping you, after they have agreed to do it, is

         

You don't mind, do you:
(phrase) 'you don't mind, do you?' has the same meaning as 'you're ok with this'. It is a polite and neutral phrase (can be used in both formal and informal situations). It is used after somebody has agreed to help or do something for you. The phrase has two purposes: 1. Politeness - It is polite after somebody has agreed to do something to give them the option to say 'no' (most times they won't). 2. Confirmation – To make sure that they are going to do it. In Spanish: "no te importa, no?".

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You don't mind, do you:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3.

A phrase that means that something will only take a short amount of time, is

         

It won't take long:
(phrase) 'it won't take long' is a neutral phrase (can be used in both formal and informal situations) that is used to convince somebody to help or do something for you. You use it when somebody is saying that they can't help you because they are busy. It's a good phrase to use in this situation. In Spanish: "no le llevará mucho tiempo".

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It won't take long:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4.

A formal phrase that is used to ask somebody for help, is

         

Would you mind:
(phrase) 'would you mind' is very polite and used in formal situations. It is used to introduce the subject of help and what you need them to do, e.g. 'would you mind working this weekend'. It's very polite because it's a request and not an order. It is always followed by a gerund (e.g. doing, going etc...) and details of what you need to do, e.g. 'would you mind going to the meeting?'. It's a politer way of saying 'could you go to the meeting?'. In Spanish: "le importaria".

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Would you mind:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5.

A phrase that is used when you want to explain in more detail what you want the other person to do, is

         

I just need:
(phrase) 'I just need' is a neutral phrase (can be used in both formal and informal situations) that is used to explain to the other person what exactly they need to do, e.g. 'I just need you to enter the data on to the database'. 'just' in this phrase has the meaning of 'only'. Using 'just' makes it sound that the task/thing to do isn't difficult or won't take a long time. The phrase is used to convince or persuade. Often people use 'that's all' or 'nothing more' at the end of the sentence, e.g. 'I just need you to check the report, that's all'. In Spanish: "simplemente necesito".

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I just need:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6.

A polite phrase used when you can't convince somebody to help you, is

         

It's fine, I just thought I'd ask:(phrase) 'it's fine, I just thought I'd ask' is a polite and neutral phrase (can be used in both formal and informal situations) that is used when you haven't convinced somebody to do something for you. It's used at the end of the conversation. It has the same meaning as 'it's not a problem'. It's a good phrase to use because it's not professional to become angry with somebody because they have decided not to help you. In Spanish: "pensé que podia preguntarte".

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It's fine, I just thought I'd ask:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7.

A phrase that is used to convince somebody to help because something has to be done or is vital, is

         

I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important:
(phrase) 'I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important' is a formal phrase that is used to convince somebody to help or do something for you. You use it when somebody is saying that they can't or won't help you. It's a very good phrase to use because it tells the other person that they would be helping you a lot by doing it. In Spanish: "no te preguntaria, si no fuera importante".

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I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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8.

A formal way to say 'thank you', is

         

I can't thank you enough:
(phrase) 'I can't thank you enough' is very polite and formal. It has the same meaning as 'I really appreciate it' or 'thank you'. It can be used both when somebody has agreed to do something and when they have actually done it. In Spanish: "no puedo agradecerle lo suficiente".

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I can't thank you enough:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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9.

An informal phrase that is used to ask somebody for help, is

         

Could you give me a hand with:
(phrase) 'could you give me a hand with' is polite and used in informal situations. It is used to introduce the subject of help and what you need them to do, e.g. 'could you give me a hand with finishing the report'. It has the same meaning as 'can you help me with'. It is different to 'would you mind' in that it is only used for requests to do something together (e.g. move a desk together or prepare for a meeting together). It is always followed by details of what you want them to help you with, e.g. 'could you give me a hand with the meeting'. In Spanish: "me puedes ayudar con".

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Could you give me a hand with:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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10.

Another way to say 'I would be very pleased', is

         

I'd really appreciate it:
(phrase) 'I'd really appreciate it' is a polite and neutral phrase (can be used in both formal and informal situations) that means you would be 'grateful' or 'very pleased' if the other person agrees to help or do something for you. It is used to convince somebody to help or do something for you. It's a very good phrase to use because it's telling the other person that they would be helping you a lot by doing it. In Spanish: "lo agradeceria realmente".

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I'd really appreciate it:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.