Instructions and requests are about more than just grammar. When you make an instruction or a request, you want someone to do something for you. If you get this important social interaction wrong, you might offend your boss, your friends, or your boyfriend/girlfriend. Some requests show that the person you are speaking to can choose to do as you want. Other ways of speaking indicate that if the request is not followed there will be trouble. But unfortunately, you can't decide to be safe and use only very polite requests. This is because English people sometimes use very polite requests as a way of being sarcastic, which is very rude and offensive. So, to learn how not to make these mistakes, you will read the text below; and you will do it now! Hurry up!
Here, we are going to look at
o The difference between requests and instructions
o The grammar and use of requests and instructions
o Register of requests and instructions
o What to say in response to a request or instruction.
The difference between requests and instructions.
Instructions (also called imperatives).
Grammar. Instructions require the person receiving them to do something, or to stop doing it. Instructions are directly adressed to the person who has to do it. Therefore, instructions are one of the few types of English sentences that do not need a subject. The subject is usually "you" (understood). If there is any doubt who should do the instruction, the "naming" form - the vocative is used.
"Everyone, be quiet! Fred, (you) say that again."
(Notice that the first instruction is general, and the second instruction is just for Fred.).
Instructions are gramatically the same as orders. However, their use is very different.
Use. Orders do not give the person who receives them any choice - they should be obeyed. As a result, most people do not like receiving orders, and they may ask if the person giving them has any right to do this. If it is not obvious that they do, there may be a confrontation, or the person giving the orders will get a repuation for being "bossy". (This is not a good thing). Therefore orders are usually given to children by their parents, pets by their owners, and by soldiers to soldiers who are less important.
For example:of Giving instruction
"William, stop crying, now!"
"Fido, come here, boy."
"Sergeant, attack that hill."
Everyone else usually uses the grammar of requests. However, English people do not mind (and usually obey) written instructions, since these are not orders, and can be quire useful. (You will see instructions on how to do each grammar exercise, for example.) You often see these in writing. Interestingly, many advertisements are instructions.
For example:of Giving Instruction
"Lose 10kg in 2 weeks!!!." "Insert part A in slot B"
When you buy something, you often get a booklet of instructions on how to use it. This is called a manual.
Imperatives are not usual in spoken English, except with people who know eachother well enough not to be very polite. When an imperative is used with an identifying vocative (a naming word), the vocative comes first or last in the sentence.
For example:of Giving instruction
"Put the books over there, Sally.."
Or a policeman might say something like:
"Step out of your car, Sir."
Grammar. Requests are often questions, though indirect requests may not be. Sometimes an instruction is changed into a request by the addition of "please" or a question tag. To make a request more polite we might use the subjunctive form of the verb. Very often English requests are indirect. Instead of asking someone to do something, the speaker asks if the person is able to do it. Therefore modals of ability ("can", "may" etc) are very often used.
"Come here, please." (order modified with "please".)
"Pass the salt, would you?" (order modified with question tag)
"Can I take this seat?" (indirect request with modal of ability)
"Could I take this seat?" ( polite indirect request with modal of ability in the subjunctive)
The subjunctive modal sounds complicated, but for the moment, just remember that "Could" is more polite than "Can", and "Might" is more polite than "May". "May/might" is slightly more polite than "can/could", but generally you can use either one.
Use. Requests and instructions are very complicated in use, because it is important not to offend people by giving orders. (This is also why many insults are given as orders.) To avoid offence, orders are often given as requests, even if the person receiving them must do as he is told. On the other hand suggestions, or encouragement from friends are often given as orders. Indirect requests are often questions related to what the speaker wants, but which do not directly ask for something. Just to make it all more complicated, sometimes even suggestions are really strong orders, and some polite instructions are given as ordinary statements.
"Could you call Mr Biggs for me, Margaret?" (order as request.)
"Would you like to open your suitcase, Madam?"(order as suggestion.)
"Have fun!."(encouragement as order)
"Go on! Have some more cake."(suggestion as order)
"Go to hell!"(insult as order)
"Why don't you go to hell?"(insult as strong suggestion)
"Some more coffee would be nice."(request as statement)
"Have you got any change?"(indirect request for money by beggars as related question)
"You might consider doing it this way ... "(instruction as statement)
"Please" is often used to change an order into a request. It does this by suggesting that the person receiving it can choose whether or not to do it. ("Please" is a short way of saying "if it pleases you".) As with vocatives "please" comes at the beginning or the end of the request. Generally, if there is a vocative and "please" in a sentence, they go at different ends. (You can choose which.) If they are at the same end, the vocative comes first at the beginning, or last at the end.
"Samantha, please come here."
"Samantha, come here please."
"Come here please, Samantha."
"Please come here Samantha.
are all different ways of saying the same thing. If it is a boss speaking to his secretary, this would be an instruction. If it is a boy talking to his girlfriend, it is a request.
As a rule, the more strongly we suggest that we expect the person receiving a request to do it, the less polite the request is. The more modifiers we put in, and the more remote we make the possibility seem, the more polite it becomes. If it becomes too polite, it is sarcastic, which is not polite at all.
For example:of request
"Lend me ten pounds until Friday, will you?" (informal, not polite)
"Lend me ten pounds until Friday, would you?"
"Do you think you could lend me ten pounds until Friday?"
"Do you think you could possibly lend me ten pounds until Friday?"
"I don't suppose that you could possibly lend me ten pounds until Friday?"
"I don't suppose that you could possibly lend me ten pounds until Friday, by any chance?"
"I don't suppose that you could possibly lend me ten pounds until Friday, by any chance, could you, please?" (very, very, humble)
Asking for Instructions
How do you (do this)?
How do I . . . ?
What is the best way to . . . ?
How do I go about it?
What do you suggest?
How do you suggest I proceed?
What is the first step?
First, (you) . . .
Then, (you) . . .
Next, (you) . . .
Lastly, (you) . . .
Before you begin, (you should . . .)
The first thing you do is . . . .
I would start by . . .
The best place to begin is . . .
To begin with,
The next step is to . . .
The next thing you do is . . .
Once you've done that, then . . .
When you finish that, then . . .
The last step is . . .
The last thing you do is . . .
In the end,
When you've finished,
When you've completed all the steps,
1.) In your mind, what is the meaning of :
a. Giving Instructions ?
b. Giving Suggustions ?
c. Asking for Request ?
2.) When should we use
a.the Giving Instructions ?
c.Asking for Request.
3.) What is the difference among :
Giving instructions,Suggestions and Asking for Request ?
4.) Make your own ( min. 2 ) examples of :
a.Giving Instructions !
c.Asking for Request.
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