I have come across both of the verbs "pass" and "hand" when people want to ask each other something.

For instance, I have heard both sentences below at the table:

1- Please hand me the saltshaker.

2- Please pass me the saltshaker.

I was wondering whether both of these two verbs mean "give"? If so, are they just more formal than "give"? Please let me know how these words differ in meaning?

  • 1
    At the table, they both mean give in the sense of put within my reach. – Kate Bunting Oct 30 '20 at 8:44

There's no obvious difference in intent at all to me in the two examples you quoted ("hand" and "pass"). I suspect the perceived formality may vary depending on the listener's precise social background, but to me I can't tell any difference in formality between hand and pass.

They do both mean give, and they are both more polite than "give me". "Please give me" is likely to be considered impolite unless in a formal situation, especially one where the requesting person is in a position of authority. "Could you please give me" is much safer.

  • @A-friend reading this again, I didn't make clear that any "Please <verb> me" (whether give, hand, or pass) is likely to sound impolite - because they are direct instructions. "Could you give/pass/hand me" / "could you please give/pass/hand" are very standard. (or "Can you ..." also polite). Hand/pass do seem more polite, but the "could"/"can" make the bigger difference. – Croad Langshan Oct 31 '20 at 0:48

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