Whenever I ask a question, I end with:

... please, tell me.

But somebody told me as an answer like this:

By now, you should know that in English it's more polite to ask: I'd like to know... OR Can you please tell me ... Your requests tend to sound rude.

Is it so rude to say please, tell me?

  • 1
    When you ask a question, it is implied that you want them to tell you the answer. Finishing with please tell/answer me seems rather pointless. You could however start with "could you please tell me what the shortest way to city hall is?" instead of a less polite "Where is City Hall." Or just add a simple "please" at he end of your question.
    – MorganFR
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:01
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    I would add that appending "please tell me" can also make you seem impatient, suggesting that you're annoyed they haven't told you yet. Or it could make you seem like you think they wouldn't otherwise tell you, suggesting that you don't trust them. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:21
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    Native speakers understand that learners are not intentionally rude. In the question where you were advised that your question sounded rude, I believe the person was referring to the title of your question: "I want to know....". A more polite way to phrase that is "I would like to know..."
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:33
  • By the way, your question should be "Is it rude to speak like this" or "talk like this". Say is a transitive verb, so it needs an object: you can only say something.
    – stangdon
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 16:29
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    I suggest that you omit all instances of "please" and "thank you" and "Can you tell me," and simply state the question. The question is known to be a question, since this is a question and answer site, and expressions of solicitousness and gratitude aren't necessary nor of any informational value. A simple statement of the question is best, without any greeting or other fluff. This will never be seen as rude. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


People will have different opinions about rudeness. I think in some circumstances, the imperative mood can come across as rude, because it's a very direct way of asking someone to do something. It can make your question feel more like a demand than a request.

"Tell me" is a relatively direct way of asking a question, and adding "please" doesn't really soften this. As mentioned by the commenter, asking "Can you tell me" is less direct and therefore generally perceived as more polite. (There's a similar effect with "give me": "give me the answer" sounds rude, even if accompanied by "please," while "could you give me the answer" is not quite as bad).

The following strategies for avoiding the imperative mood are often used by native speakers, although not in all circumstances:

  • using the word "could" or "can": "could you do this" rather than "do this"
  • replacing an imperative with a conditional statement about yourself: "I would like to know" rather than "tell me," "I would like to have" rather than "give me."

Another reason, completely separate, why people might object is because, as MorganFR mentions, this isn't useful information at all (especially if you add it at the end of all of your questions). Especially on Stack Exchange, people often prefer questioners to be brief and to the point. Adding extraneous words may be perceived as rude, since it makes the question take longer to read and process. (Yes, I know this conflicts with what I said earlier about "can you tell me" being more polite than "tell me").

  • Good explanation. I might use the word pushy to describe these shorter questions. This would be something very hard for a learner to grasp, I think – when is a question so terse and blunt that it starts to sound pushy?
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 20:14
  • The imperative mood in tell me is not made less exigent by prefixing please, but oddly (to me, at least) it is softened somewhat when please comes after the demand. Compare Tell me, please with please, tell me. This may be because please is such a common utterance that it has no more affect; it's wallpaper in the latter, but in the former, it is the last thought in the statement and so is actually perceived. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 21:00

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