1

Sales clerk : Looking for anything in particular, sir?

Harry : Yes, em, that necklace there, how much is it?

Sales clerk : It's £270.

Harry : Erm, all right, er, I'll have it.

Sales clerk : Lovely! Would you like it... gift-wrapped?

Harry : Yes, all right.

Sales clerk : Lovely! Let me just pop it in the box. There!

Harry : Look, could we be quite quick?

Sales clerk : Certainly, sir!Ready in the flashest of flashes! There!

Harry : That's great.

Sales clerk : Not quite finished.

Harry : Look I, I don't need a bag; I'll just put it in my pocket.

Sales clerk : Oh, this isn't a bag, sir!

Harry : Really?

Sales clerk : This is so much more than a bag! Ooh!

Harry : Could we be quite quick, please!

Sales clerk : Prontissimo.

--

It's Lovely Actually clip.

Harry said to the sales clerk:

"Look, could we be quite quick?"

In this part, I wonder why It's "we", not "you"?

Now the clerk was loitering over giving a ring to Harry.

Then shouldn't "we" be changed for "you"?

5

It could have been could you, but it shouldn't necessarily be that. Both are valid ways to make the same kind of request.

In this context, could you and could we have the same exact meaning. It's obvious the clerk is the one who needs to get the job done, therefore it doesn't matter which of we or you Harry uses, it's clear he's asking her to be quicker.

On the social aspect of usage:

Depends on the situation, could we can sometimes sound a bit more polite than could you, while in others it can sound mocking. It can sometimes encourage the other party to do something quicker/better by giving him/her a sense of partnership/cooperation, and other times it can backfire, like it might have in this case.

  • 1
    Seconding this, in social situations 'could you' might have the negative connotation that you feel the other person is always late. You are singling him/her out. By including yourself in the 'we' you make it about both of you as opposed to the other person. – Zessa Apr 20 '15 at 14:05
  • @Zessa, but based on your explanation, if I use "we" to express my dismay against the slowness of the sales staff ("oppose"), meaning the sales staff also oppose me which is strange. So, isn't "could you" is better since I'm the only one who was opposing against the staff? – XPMai Apr 20 '15 at 20:32
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    @XPMai I believe Zessa meant, "By including yourself in the 'we' you make it about both of you needing to be faster, as opposed to making it just about the other person needing to be faster." Zessa didn't mean, You're both opposed to the other person. Saying "could you" is more accurate, but saying "could we" is more friendly/polite. :) – Keiki Apr 20 '15 at 21:48
  • @Keiki Yes, that is exactly what I meant. – Zessa Apr 21 '15 at 19:21

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