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Business English Skill Set - Small Talk

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Lesson 3 of 6

Embedded Questions for Politeness

Kate July 21, 2020

Before we begin, let’s go over some vocabulary you will find in this section of the course. Feel free to refer back to this page as you move through this section.


Shrug off (phrasal verb) – to shrug is to move one’s shoulders upwards in a manner indicating that you don’t care. To shrug off a comment or question is to dismiss it carelessly

As we have already discussed, doing business often requires more formal language than a conversation you might have with a friend or family member.

As well as saying ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’, there are a number of other expressions we can use to show politeness.

Which of these questions seems more polite to you:

A) Where’s the bathroom?

B) I was wondering if you could tell me where the bathroom is?

B, right?

This is an example of an embedded question, sometimes also known as an indirect question where we ask a question with a polite expression such as “I was wondering…?” or “Could you tell me…?”

In this lesson we will learn some polite expressions for asking questions as well as how to structure an embedded question. We will also learn about embedding a question in the answer.

When speaking, use a slight upwards inflection at the end of the sentence to indicate that you are asking a question.