Imagine there is a discussion between two dignitaries in a meeting in which you have participated. You are the youngest present participant and your knowledge degree is the least among all the audience. Someone asks your opinion as a sign o respect and you want to express your true sense, but very politely.

There is a way in our language for breaking the ice in such moments. we say:

(a) I can’t imagine myself in a position where I would be able to give my opinion, but...[my opinion is that]...

(b) I can’t imagine myself in a position where I can give my opinion, but...[my opinion is that]...

Which choice sounds more idiomatic and natural to an English native speaker? If not, what would be the closest equivalent for it?

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    Starting out a speech with self-deprecating remarks (when they're not a joke) really isn't a great choice. This isn't a matter of "politeness"... I understand that in some cultures, doing this is a sign of polite behavior, but it's not part of most English-speaking culture and it makes your opinion look weak. If you've been asked to give your opinion, telling them that it's worthless is not a good way to start... it makes it look like they made a mistake asking for your opinion. – Catija Feb 1 '17 at 20:24
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    "It's not my place to say, but..." – user3169 Feb 1 '17 at 20:33
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    @user3169 It is his place to say. He was asked. – WRX Feb 1 '17 at 21:04
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    @user3169 perhaps I do not understand what you mean, but the OP says he was asked. So saying "It's not my place to say", is like saying the person should not have asked him. If that person was his boss, it would be rude to respond like that -- at least in my own experience. – WRX Feb 1 '17 at 21:28
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    @Willow - Spot on. There's a time and a place to begin, "It may not be my place to say, but..." (such as when you're venturing to give unsolicited advice). However, as you said, this phrase isn't a good fit with situation described by the O.P. – J.R. Feb 2 '17 at 1:07

Speaking as a Brit, I try not to be obsequious. To engage in such politenesses just seems embarrassing to modern ears. If someone asks for my opinion, I say what I think. If they don't want my opinion, they don't need to ask. Neither of your examples sound natural to me. A possible alternative (and one that I would recommend) is to start with "I think..."


I agree with what others have said: Your suggestions are overly self-deprecating.

If I feel a need to start with a qualifier, I might say something more like:

  • I may not be an expert, but here's what I think...

  • I'm relatively new to this, but I think...


How about, "Thank you for asking me." I think that if you are asked, it is because the group or one of the group thinks you may have something to add. When I had student teachers interning in my classroom, they often brought the latest thinking and techniques to our setting. They might have felt they could not make suggestions, and I would not want them to feel like that. They were there for a reason. Special Education is like many fields, new information is available all the time. Students and people new to the situation, may well have information or ideas I had not yet heard.

I'd be more worried about not having anything to say. You can even agree with the point you think was most important. "Thank you, I agree with Mr. Smith's point about (whatever his point was.) Just try not to be obsequious.

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