An poster is trying to ask their teacher the following question, who seems late for class.

Wasn't it supposed to start 30 minutes ago

Is it polite to ask the teacher that way?

  • There's nothing especially impolite about saying that. Not knowing the full circumstances, it's impossible to say any more. They might have begun with "Excuse me, but..." Mar 21, 2020 at 13:04

1 Answer 1


I think in this case the politeness will depend more on the context than the particular grammar used.

Posing a question in the negative ("Wasn't it...?") does more strongly imply that you believe that yes, it was supposed to start 30 minutes ago (which could in turn possibly be interpreted as accusing the teacher of being late, rather than just asking a question).

If you want to be more careful, there are some other ways to phrase the question which are less likely to be interpreted negatively:

I thought it was supposed to start 30 minutes ago?
Was I early or was it supposed to start 30 minutes ago?

Both of these are presented basically as "me" questions, and so are essentially asking "was I wrong?" instead of "are you wrong?" This helps to soften the question and make it less likely to be perceived as an attack or impolite.

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