5 ways to ask for help in english


On my polite-o-meter, the two sentences score very close: "Could you help me, please?", "Could you please help me?". The former sounds more formal. Use whichever one you want and you"ll be more polite than most people.

The following data is a very rough indication that "please-on-the-end" might be more common: 1

1 Google results may not be accurate at all. I will be reviewing this. Another answer suggests a different result.

Sentence structure has an impact on information emphasis:

How to learn all of this?

There are a lot of great answers in this thread (I suggest you read them too!), but that can be overwhelming! Usage is highly dependent on context. Rather than trying to learn 1000 rules on usage, I suggest that you gain subtle usage skills naturally through observation and experience .

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edited Feb 28 "14 at 2:39
answered Feb 27 "14 at 17:09

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There are a lot of subtleties hidden in the different words and word orders mentioned here. Changing the place in the sentence of the word please changes its emphasis; roughly, the earlier the word comes in the sentence, the stronger the request for help. Notice RayB"s point that putting please at the end of the sentence sounds more polite. This is because it"s a bit less insistent.

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Context is very important as w8004.info; a more insistent request for help can go with a more pressing need for it and not be impolite. If for example, a child came up to a stranger and said "Could you please help me? I"m lost." the child would probably be thought of as very w8004.info-mannered, keeping a cool head in a frightening situation. On the other hand, if a shopper asked a clerk "could you please help me?" instead of "could you help me, please?" it would typically convey a sense of irritation at having been made to wait too long. I say typically because one can always use tone of voice to change this.

Now, "would you help me, please" sounds bit less insistent to me than using could, I suppose because it"s asking if one is willing to help rather than if one is able to. "Won"t you help me" usually doesn"t go with "please" since it is really asking if the person is unwilling to help even though he should. (Edit: I note the exception to this of "won"t you pleeease, please help me" from the Beatles song mentioned in another answer. When you do use won"t you please in this sense, it is particularly insistent. There"s a flavor almost of begging in the song.)

A funny story comes to mind. I used to know a guy who had spent a number of years as a fisherman in Maine, and he told this story. One evening, he was in the boathouse with some of his friends, and the radio came on:

Jim?Hey, Phil, what"s up?Not much. You doing anything right now?Nope, just sitting here with Joe and George.W8004.info, could you stop out and pick me up, please?Sure, where are you?About three miles out, taking on water.The reason it"s funny is because the level of insistence for help was way less than the need for it.