For example, "For the beginning, you are asked to download the file" instead of "Please download the file". I know "Please download the file" is more casual, but I want to make sure that "you are asked to" sounds natural in this context.

  • 'You are requested not to smoke' on a notice is indeed a very hedged (here polite) variant on 'Please do not smoke'. A general prohibition in that area. However, your friend might tell you 'In the driving test, you are asked to do an emergency stop'. This means it is one of the test components. Jun 29, 2020 at 18:47
  • @EdwinAshworth - You're right, but what about this particular context? Can, for example, a teacher tell his students, "For the beginning, you are asked to download the file and..." to mean "For the beginning, please download the file and..."?
    – YesMe91
    Jun 29, 2020 at 19:55
  • 'You are asked to ...' is an impersonal (though still polite) framing of a request. Nobody addresses someone that way when they mean "Please ...". (Note I've changed to double inverted commas to signal switch to direct verbal address.) Jun 30, 2020 at 10:49

2 Answers 2


'Being asked to' is a more impersonal, non-specific way of conveying this, and could fit better in other contexts like, for example: "If you are asked to provide and explanation, you'll have to make yourself clear." "When you were asked that before, did you know the answer?"

It is used when you choose not to specify who is asking, often because it turns out as unimportant. If your sentence "For the beginning, you are asked to download a file" is said in the context of a class in which you'll be asked to carry out a series of things it would be overall okay, though it is rather an odd expression that of "For the beginning" if there is not an 'of' immediately after as in "Everything is set for the beginning of the operation." which is not the case.

In the same context, if you say, on the contrary, "I want you to/ I ask you to download a file" this would be deliberately unnatural, as it would imply directly that the person who is asking you to download the file has a personal or a particular interest in you doing so. If this person is your professor or your teacher, this would not be remotely the case.

Other ways to convey the same thing could be:

"At the beginning, you'll be asked to download the file", which to me, sounds way more natural without further context given.

"At the beginning, they will ask you to..."

"To start off, you will be told to download the file".

"First, they will gauge your technical knowledge by asking you to download a file".

Hope it's useful.

  • Hi, Alanis. This is a good answer, but it would be better if your sentences started with capital letters and ended with punctuation. Please take the tour and read about good answers.
    – Davo
    Jun 29, 2020 at 17:26

No. Never ever write instructions in the passive or using any other language contortion that makes the meaning less obvious. As far as I am concerned, this includes politenesses. For example, if you had discovered a fire would you shout

Occupants are kindly requested to evacuate the building.


Fire! Get the hell out of here!

The key principles against which you should judge any instruction you write are clarity and brevity. Do they communicate your idea effectively in as few words as possible?

In the example given

Download the file.

Is all that is required. More would be less.

  • But my sentence is not intended as an instruction. It's just a request.
    – YesMe91
    Jun 29, 2020 at 19:58
  • Why is it a request? Do you gain from the person downloading the file or do they? If they gain, why use please?
    – David
    Jun 29, 2020 at 21:31

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