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Today I wrote this sentence to my supervisor who is a native speaker of English:

I need to talk to you about this paper.

Now I am worried this could be rude. Would you say this is rude, or not?

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    Elaborate, please, as to why do you think it could be rude. – theUg Feb 24 '13 at 7:29
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Many native speakers feel that there's a difference between "talk to" and "talk with": the former is used when talking down (parent to child, supervisor to employee, etc.) and the latter when talking up (student to teacher, etc.) or when talking to peers (friends). A few of the native speaker users here expressed this opinion in answers to a question here about two weeks ago.

I would recommend that you respect this distinction if only on the theory that you don't know who might take offense: better safe than sorry.

You should have said "I would like to talk with you about this paper if you have some free time this week or next". Would like is more polite and less imperious than I need to, and the final conditional clause puts your relationship into the proper perspective: you're asking your superior (your immediate boss) for his or her time, so it has to be at your boss's convenience. I need to sounds too urgent and is more like a command than a request.

Register is always important because many times it's more important how you say something than what you say.

Perhaps your supervisor shares cytpe.h's opinion that it's not rude, but perhaps not. I don't feel a difference, but because I know that so many native Anglophones do, I'm always aware of how I say it: with to or with with. I don't want to ruffle feathers for no reason.

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    I'd agree with this assessment. It's not so much that the original wording is "rude," but it's not quite as courteous as it could be. – J.R. Feb 24 '13 at 9:09
  • I too agree. Phrases such as "we need to talk" declare an intention to offer corrective counsel. – David42 Aug 30 '17 at 23:02
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I can't speak for your supervisor, but I wouldn't consider it rude. However, this sentence might convey a no-nonsense, down-to-business attitude. If you say it too often, he may think you are being pesky, but that would most likely be because of frequency of use, not the sentence itself. I would also be sure to thank him for his time.

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