I wrote an email to request somebody to do something for me. In the email I said "I want you to ...". Somebody told me that instead, I should say "I need you to..." or "Please help me", so that the person who reads my email would not feel disrespected.

I am not an English speaker. Can anyone educate me a little bit if "I want you to..." is more offensive than "I need you to..."? Thanks ahead!

  • In the right (or wrong) context, either might be considered impolite, but I would definitely not classify either as offensive. Jun 22, 2019 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


Please do not use either of these expressions if you are asking someone to do something that they might not be willing to do. Both are extremely offensive. If you are that person's boss, then possibly they will put up with such abrasive language. But even then it is better to phrase your request more politely.

Less offensive ways of phrasing your request could inlcude:

  1. Please could you...
  2. I would be grateful if you ...
  3. It would be very helpful if you could...

    and so forth.

Many years ago I worked as a close assistant to an extremely senior government official in my country. If he really wanted me to do something important, and do it now, he would say "One thing you might do is...". He got it, and got it now.

All the above is very much a matter of British English understatement. Maybe they use rougher language elsewhere. But if English is not your native language I suggest you might start mildly and become more direct if that seems to get people going more effectively.

  • 2
    I agree that your suggested wordings are more polite. However, although the OP's phrasing indeed sounds pushy (probably unintentionally so), I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say it falls under "extremely offensive" umbrella.
    – J.R.
    Jun 21, 2019 at 22:01
  • 1
    It is a matter of opinion, but I personally would not tolerate " I want you to..." (without preamble) from anyone. It is possible to lead up to "I want you to..." with some kind of polite reasoning that ends with something like ""That's why I want you to...".
    – JeremyC
    Jun 21, 2019 at 22:12
  • 2
    I get what you're saying, but if I knew that the request was coming from a non-native speaker, I'd probably just chalk it up to meaning well but not knowing better. Also, I typically reserve the "extremely offensive" label for expletive-laden rants or tasteless racial slurs, not misworded requests for assistance.
    – J.R.
    Jun 21, 2019 at 22:15
  • 1
    Ditto: it is "extremely offensive" to strike my grandmother in the face with a Nazi flag. Okay, that one might be slightly more than "extremely offensive", but you get the idea.
    – John Doe
    Jun 21, 2019 at 23:17
  • I would probably upvote this answer and delete all these comments if you changed "Both are extremely offensive” to "Both are considered quite rude.”
    – J.R.
    Jun 22, 2019 at 19:12

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