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Business English Skill Set - Small Talk

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Lesson 3, Topic 3

Polite Answers with Embedded Questions

Kate July 21, 2020
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Polite answers can include the question embedded in the answer. This is often used in more formal speech.


Some common expressions/verbs used when embedding a statement include:

  • I don’t know…
  • I’m not sure…
  • I don’t remember…
  • Let’s find out…
  • I wonder…

For example: “I wonder if it will rain today.”

“Let’s find out how much their budget is.”


Structure – Polite expression + Question word/if/whether + Subject + Verb.


Sometimes people will ask questions which we are not sure of.

Rather than appear rude and simply shrug off their enquiry with “I don’t know”, we can embed the answer into the question for a more polite answer.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Polite question – “Do you know if Mike spoke to the client yesterday?”

Polite answer – “Sorry, I’m not sure if he did that.”

Polite question – “Could you please tell me who the team leader for this project was?”

Polite answer – “I’m afraid I’m not sure who the team leader was.”

As with the questions, the information is embedded so the word order follows that of an affirmative statement. (Subject first, followed by verb).


Activity

Business settings aren’t the only place where embedded questions are used. Choose a situation from the list below and try to think of embedded questions you could ask in such a situation.

  • At a tourist information office
  • On your first day at a new school
  • Enquiring about a property which is on the market
  • At a train station

Practise using them in a dialogue with a teacher by booking a one-to-one lesson. Click the link below.