LEVEL: Upper Intermediate - Advanced

TYPE OF ENGLISH: General English


Describing words, actions and behaviour

Study the sentences and pay attention to the adjectives in bold. Use a dictionary if possible.
Mentioning her divorce wasn’t very tactful. You know how sensitive she is about it.
Calling her ‘fat’ was very offensive.
Don’t be so rude! Say ‘thank you’ when you are given a present.
You have to be more diplomatic if you want to ask your boss for a pay rise.
The teacher’s criticism was very subtle. Not everybody noticed it.
Why did you have to make such a personal comment about her character? You hurt her feelings.
You were very disrespectful to the guests at the last party. Try to be nice and civil this time!
I’ll be blunt – you need to lose weight!
Mark always uses very unpleasant words and gestures when he speaks. He is very vulgar.
Masa always opens doors for other people. He is very respectful.
Sam is very polite. He always says "please", "thank you", "you're welcome."
It is very impolite to point at people!
Saying that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ is not very politically correct!

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imagesWhich of the adjectives describe words or behaviour that can offend other people?

offensive, rude, personal, blunt, vulgar, impolite

imagesWhich of the adjectives describe words or behaviour that show that you are considering other people’s feelings?

tactful, diplomatic, subtle, civil, respectful, polite, politically correct

Tactful language

Study the dialogues and sentences below. Notice how the expressions in bold are used to say things more carefully so that you do not offend or upset someone.

Making a complaint
Shop assistant: Can I help you, sir?
Mark: Yes, I bought a digital camera from your website.
Shop assistant: OK. Is there a problem?
Mark: Well, yes. It looks like you sent me the wrong camera. As you can see from the order
confirmation, I didn't order this model.
Shop assistant: Oh, I'm very sorry sir. We'll replace it immediately.

Speaking your mind 1
Alice: Excuse me, could you make a little less noise, please? I'm trying to sleep.
Hotel guest: OK, sorry. We'll turn the music down.
Alice: Thank you.

Interrupting a meeting
Emma's boss: Come in!
Emma: Hi Mr. Johnson, I don't mean to disturb you, but could I have a quick word?
Emma's boss: Couldn't this wait till later? I've got a meeting on at the moment.
Emma Well, unfortunately that isn't really possible. I'm leaving for Paris this afternoon. I'll only be a minute I promise.
Emma's boss: Oh, Ok then.

Speaking your mind 2
Emma: Mark, I've decided. I'm going to take my driving test next week.
Mark: Next week? Don't you think you need a bit more time?
Emma: What do you mean?
Mark: Well, I don't mean to be rude, but I've seen your driving. You're just not ready yet.

Making an urgent request 1
Sam: You were looking for me, Mark?
Mark: Yes, that's right. I seem to have misplaced my textbook, and I have a lecture in 30 minutes. I was wondering if I could borrow your copy.
Sam: Ok, I can lend you mine for the day, but I'll need it back by 5 o'clock.

Making an urgent request 2
Landlady: Hello.
Mark: Hello, this is Mark from Flat 14. I'm calling about the shower in my bathroom. It seems to be leaking.
Landlady: Oh really? I'll send the plumber round tomorrow afternoon.
Mark: I'm afraid I'm going away tomorrow afternoon for a few days. Would it be possible to send someone round to fix it later today?
Landlady: OK, I'll call the plumber and get back to you in an hour.
Mark: Thank you. I'll be waiting.

Would you mind coming a bit earlier next time?
I'm rather tired at the moment.
Wouldn't it be better to talk later?
It appears you haven't read the instructions properly.
Put the structures in bold into the correct categories below:

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images‘Softening’ word/phrases

a little
a bit
really (in negative sentences)
...seems to be...

imagesNegative questions

Couldn't this wait till later?
Don't you think...?
Wouldn’t it be better to…?

imagesPolite requests

Could you...?
I was wondering if I could...
Would it be possible to...?
Would you mind ….-ing…?

images‘Softening’ phrases used to introduce problems

It looks like ...
I don't mean to disturb you, but..
I don't mean to be rude, but ...
I seem to have (+ PAST PARTICIPLE)
I'm afraid ...
It appears…
Say the following sentences in a more careful and tactful way using the words in brackets:

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imagesI've lost your phone number. (seem)

I seem to have lost your phone number.

imagesCan I borrow your phone for this afternoon? (would)

Would it be possible to borrow your phone for this afternoon?

imagesYou are too tired to go out tonight. (don’t / bit)

Don't you think you're a bit too tired to go out tonight?

imagesI need more time to finish my homework. (afraid / bit)

I'm afraid I need a bit more time to finish my homework.

imagesYou've given me the wrong change. (seem)

You seem to have given me the wrong change.

imagesYou're too fast for me. Can you speak more slowly? (afraid / little / could / bit)

I'm afraid you're a little too fast for me. Could you speak a bit more slowly?

imagesThe price is expensive. Can you give me a discount? (bit / wondering)

I'm afraid the price is a bit expensive. I was wondering if you could give me a discount.

imagesI'm busy right now. Call me later. (little / mind)

I'm a little busy right now. Would you mind calling me back later?

Being tactful - comments:

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~ anne 2014-01-17 15:33:46
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~ Riham 2015-01-21 15:46:10
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Featured worksheet for teachers

Have-get something done

In this lesson, students study and practise the structures have something done and get something done. The worksheet is suitable for both classroom practice and self-study.


A great help. Amazing resources!

~ Agatka (EFL teacher, Poland)