2

I'm really curious.

At the bakery, I picked one big bread and brought it to the baker and say "Would you please slice it?"

Is it natural to say

"Would you please slice it?"

or

"Would you please cut it?"

or anything else?

4
  • "I picked out one big loaf...and said..." Also, the convention in English is not to insert a space before punctuation marks like commas, ' and " (i.e. closing quotation marks), or ? and ! – Erik Kowal Oct 28 '14 at 22:08
  • Would you slice this please? is a colloquial winner......the baker would understand that you wanted the loaf cut into individual slices. – Gary's Student Oct 28 '14 at 22:09
  • It is not a convention in any language to insert a space before commas. And even inserting a space before some of the other marks is only a convention in French. Do not ever do it outside of French. – ЯegDwight Oct 28 '14 at 22:25
  • Would you please slice it for me? - (sounds very colloquial and that's why it should be used) – Leo Oct 29 '14 at 11:06
6

Would you please slice it?

You could say this sentence, of course, but there are two serious problems you might have. These are not about which verb you use: slice or cut. The first thing that we need to understand is about where you put the word please.

Please

  • Could you slice it, please?
  • Please could you slice it?
  • Could you please slice it!

Generally speaking, the natural place for please is at the end of the sentence. When we put it here, it is low pitch and quite quiet. The main musical stress in the sentence will come before the word please. This is the most polite and friendly place to put it. Note that you cannot stress the word please in this position - and if you do you will annoy your listeners.

If you really want to draw attention to your request, or if it is urgent, you can put please at the beginning of the sentence. If you stress the word please here, it will sound as if you are pleading or begging your listener to give you something or do something:

  • Mum please can I have another ice-cream.

If you aren't begging, then be a little careful about putting please at the front of your sentence. If you stress the please, you will sound like a child begging their parents to do something. If you don't stress it, it sounds a bit impersonal. It is a bit business-like, and is not as friendly as putting it at the end. This is probably because it is more difficult for the listener to say 'no' when you put the please at the beginning. This isn't a problem if you are in a business-like situation or, for example, if you are giving instructions to an employee.

WARNING: be very careful about putting please in the middle of your sentence. When you do this, you have changed the feeling of the sentence completely. If you put please in the post auxiliary verb position, it is more like an order than a request:

  • Would you please be quiet!
  • Can you please give me a hand!
  • Could you please stop!

You can do this, if you want, if you are somebody's parent, or if you have some kind of authority over them. Remember though, that although it may look like a request, this has the function of an order, not a request. It can also sound as if you are annoyed with the person you're speaking to:

  • Would you please slice it. [and why haven't you already done that!]

In terms of politeness and or friendliness, it is more polite and friendly not to use please at all than to put it in this position in the sentence:

  • Could you slice it?

Would

We often use would in order to be polite. Usually if it is in a request, then we'll see it with other verbs like mind:

  • Would you mind opening the window, please?

However, if you use it just with a main verb, it isn't obviously a request - it becomes slightly more like a directive or an order. For straightforward requests, we usually use could. If you use would in the wrong situation, it can sound as if you're telling somebody off because they haven't done something:

  • Would you help me?

The 'request' above sound a bit as if the speaker is annoyed because the person isn't helping them. It is far better in general to use could for requests. It is far more friendly. So a good phrasing would be

  • Could you slice it, please?

And it is always good to show that they will be helping you, so even better is:

  • Could you slice this for me, please?

Hope this helps!

2
  • thank you very much. I appreciate your detailed explanation. It helped me a lot. nobody has ever answered like this before. большое вам спасибо за помощь – 18yoPolyglot Oct 30 '14 at 20:33
  • @18yoPolyglot Вы очень приветствуются ! :) (hope that's correct Russian!) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 30 '14 at 21:04
1

It's natural to say "slice." When you want to divide something into multiple thin pieces, neatly with a knife, etc. slice is typically the appropriate term.

"Cut" isn't often used with the word "bread" in any case.

0

The different ways that you could pose the question are completely subjective, but to avoid confusion, the pronoun that you would use in that case should definitely be this. Using it sounds somewhat awkward, because it is usually used to refer to things that were previously mentioned or are easily identified.1

In that situation, if you use "it" the baker may start wondering if you two were having a previous conversation about something. If you threw the bread at his face and said "can you slice it?" then he would probably be more likely to easily identify what you were talking about.

The reason this is more appropriate is because the bread is in your hand. The pronoun this is used to identify a specific person or thing close at hand2, so when you say "this" the baker will look for something in his immediate vicinity first.

Source (Google)1

Source (Google)2

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  • You can't rely on Google links to work for other people because Google returns different things to different people. I assume your links were supposed to contain definitions (they don't for me); you could link to the actual dictionary Google quotes instead at oxforddictionaries.com. – snailplane Oct 29 '14 at 16:41
  • I think 'it' is perfectly natural in this context. You have placed the bread on the counter or have placed/are placing in the baker's hand. It is very clear what 'it is'. – tunny Oct 29 '14 at 20:20

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