How do we ask permission to do something? What are the ways in which these requests can be given (granted) or refused (denied)?
There are many ways to achieve this and here are some of the words, expressions and idioms for asking and giving permission in English.The request can be formal and the response formal too. Equally the request can be more informal with a corresponding informal response.
We are always reminded that a polite request is more likely to be met with a positive outcome (result) but not always.
Asking and Giving Permission in English
Polite Formal Requests
- Do you mind if….
- Would you mind if….
- May I…
- Could I possibly…
- Is it possible ….
- Is it possible for me to….
Polite Formal Responses
- No, not at all
- Yes you may
- Yes, of course
- Of course, be my guest…
- Yes, it’s my pleasure
- Certainly be my guest….
Examples of Asking and Giving Permission in English (formal)
– Do you mind if I take off my coat it is very warm here?
– No, not at all, be my guest.
Be careful here. In the reply the first word is NO but this is not a refusal. NO is used here because we asked “do you mind” so we are actually saying “No, I do not mind” so it is a positive response.
– Could I possibly close the window it is a little cold here?
– Yes of course.or Please help yourself.
– May I put my own furniture into the apartment?
– Yes, you may indeed. Just let me know what you would like to remove.
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Polite Formal Refusals
- I am sorry that will not be possible
- I am afraid that is out of the question
- I would rather that you didn’t
- I am afraid not
Examples of Polite Refusals in English (formal)
– May I go to my friends party on Saturday and stay overnight?
– I am afraid that is out of the question. We are going to see your Grandmother on Saturday and you haven’t seen her for months.
– Would you mind if I took next Friday off work as I am moving apartment over the weekend and I need to get ready?
– I am afraid that will not be possible. It is the end of the month and we simply have to get those accounts closed.
– May I open the window a little?
– I would rather that you didn’t. I have just recovered from the flu and I do not wish to get ill again.
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Informal Requests and whether they are granted or refused
- Can I have the last piece of cake?
- Have you €10 you could lend me?
- Yeah sure.. – (granted)
- Go ahead.. – (granted)
- Not a problem -(granted)
- Not a chance – (refused)
- Go away, no.. (refused, very rude)
Some examples of Asking and Giving Permission (Informal)
– Can I skip class later I need to go to the dentist?
– Yeah sure, just make sure you tell the class teacher.
– Can I have the last piece of cake?
– Go ahead, nobody else seems to want it.
– Have you €10 you can lend me until I get to the bank?
– Yes, not a problem.Take your time pay me back next week.
– Can I have an advance (early payment) of my pocket money?
– Go away, no, you are always asking…
Idioms connected with Asking and Giving Permission in English
The idea got the thumbs up/thumbs down. – The idea was accepted/rejected
It was shot down in flames. – It was rejected
They pooh poohed it. – Something was turned down, rejected (informal)
I got the green light. – Green for go, something was approved or accepted.
I presented my idea to the board suggesting changes to our business practices. They gave it the thumbs up or they gave it the thumbs down.
I thought my marketing plan was a stroke of genius (really goo) but the management board did not like it and the shot it down in flame.
The idea was pooh poohed immediately without much consideration. (This is more slang than informal.)
My project was approved by everyone. I got the green light and it starts next week. I
am really excited.
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