Well, the question is crystal clear. How do you ask someone (politely) to clean up the room using a vacuum cleaner?

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    Is the room in the US or the UK? Jan 29, 2014 at 1:40
  • I think it makes a huge difference whether you're asking them to hoover their own room, a communal room or your room (not sure if there's any way to do that last one politely!). As other people have pointed out, this is probably more of an etiquette question than an English one; you might be interested in the proposed etiquette site on Area51. May 1, 2014 at 15:01

2 Answers 2


"Politely" has various levels so I'll try to address several:

Would you mind if I asked you to hoover (vacuum) the room?

This is probably very British. It's very polite. Notice we haven't actually asked for the room to be cleaned, we have asked if it's a problem. If the person you're asking is British, this is the most polite method. You can even experiment with words like "awfully" (Would you mind awfully...?), or by adding other conditionals (...if you have time).

Do you mind hoovering (vacuuming) the room?
Would you be able to clean the room, please?

Are my firm favourites for sounding a) polite and b) not too polite as to sound foolish.

Lastly, I offer a more familiar (though polite) option (assume you have known the person a while but in a respectful/businesslike way):

Is it OK if you vacuum the room, please?
Could you vacuum the room please?

Hoover = British English
Vacuum = American English

  • Nice! "Hoover" is a common eponym used in Britain. We really don't say "vacuum". We call the device "a hoover" too.
    – JMB
    Jan 29, 2014 at 11:30
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    The last part of the answer is not a strict rule. Hoover is not the only word for this, in the UK. Many people here, also use the word vacuum. Hoover is one of those brand names that is misused as a general word, by certain people. Like the words Coke (a registered trademark of The Coca-Cola Company in the United States since 27 March, 1944) and Kleenex that are misused to mean any cola or tissues in general, regardless of the fact they only mean one, particular brand, each.
    – Tristan
    Jan 29, 2014 at 15:43
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    The word vacuum is also commonly used in British English and is more appropriate to use in general because, it means any vacuum cleaner, regardless of brand name. Hoover is only logical when referring to a vacuum of the Hoover brand in particular.
    – Tristan
    Jan 29, 2014 at 15:55
  • You're right Tristan, though I did acknowledge in my first comment that it's an eponym. @OP - we (in Britain) also use "to vacuum", but "hoover" is certainly more common (to me). The device is officially a "vacuum cleaner".
    – JMB
    Jan 29, 2014 at 22:20
  • JMB, which word is used must vary in British regions, as well as among particular people. I have not heard "hoover" used around my part of the country.
    – Tristan
    Jan 29, 2014 at 23:15

If this is based on a real situation, it might not be as simple as "being polite". The issue could overlap into the realm of interpersonal relationships and the use of higher EQ (emotional quotient; dealing with people in an emotionally savvy manner).

For example, suppose it's a roommate who is messy and you want them to vacuum your shared room or common room. In that case, even a polite request to clean up could cause problems. It may be better to write up an agreement on ground rules, who does what cleaning when, etc. Checklists could help.

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