The pedestrian way that leads to the place where I live is not wide enough for people to walk abreast. But sometimes, some people with strong muscle were walking very slowly ahead because they were reading their iphones.

I am not sure whether it was due to culture difference or they looked down on their opposite gender, because some of them did not understand what I said, and they did not even move their legs when I said, "would you move please, sirs"? And they were just laughing.

Was it better to say, "move your body please" in that situation?
Is that strong enough?
How do you tell people to move faster?

  • 3
    Cultural context, please...?
    – Stephie
    Dec 26, 2015 at 18:52
  • 4
    "Move your body, please" is a strong and (in my opinion) not very respectful thing to say, despite the "please". In a situation like this, I think it is not so much the exact words you say as how you say them. If possible, I would just say very loudly, "Excuse me, please" or "Excuse me, I need to get by." Repeat it forcefully several times if necessary and make sure they have heard you. If they persist in not moving, I think you are entitled to push past them while repeating, "Excuse me." But I warn you that this is an extremely culture-dependent answer.
    – stangdon
    Dec 26, 2015 at 18:58
  • 3
    @stangdon - I agree with "Excuse me, I need to get by." Excellent way to word this. I'm not so sure about the pushing part, though.
    – J.R.
    Dec 26, 2015 at 19:48
  • 3
    I would just say "Excuse me, I'm in a hurry." That puts the focus of the "problem" on you, not them. (Not the reality, but it is polite.) Ultimately, if they don't pay attention there is little you can do.
    – user3169
    Dec 26, 2015 at 22:37
  • 3
    The one I like the most and widely used: excuse me! coming through!
    – Schwale
    Dec 26, 2015 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


I have written elsewhere about our "elaborate codes for acknowledging and regretting the unhappy necessity of imposing burdens on our peers".

Anglo-American culture is intensely, almost pugnaciously individualistic. Except in an evident emergency, no one is felt to be entitled to demand a particular action of someone else, and we resent such demands, even by (or especially by!) people who are entitled to make them, like policemen or bosses.

Consequently, we rarely use frank imperatives like "move", "step aside", "let me pass", even softened by "please". If you look at the language suggested in the Comments you'll see a number of linguistic strategies for 'distancing' demands:

  • introducing the demand with an acknowledgment that you're imposing on your addressees and intruding on their privacy (Excuse me or *I beg your pardon)
  • casting the demand as a questions and as a hypothetical (Could you please move?, Would you let me pass?)
  • casting the demand as a favor conferred by your addressees (I'd be so grateful ... I need to get past ... thank you!)

(Any of these can of course be uttered in a tone and with a demeanour which negates the distance and the politeness, so you have to keep your voice friendly and apologetic, and suppress any vexation you actually feel.)

In your particular situation, these may accompany physical actions like actually pushing your way through the people blocking your way; as long as you perform those actions in a manner which makes it clear that you are trying to avoid unnecessary contact and force, people will not ordinarily take offense.

All of this assumes that your addressees are ordinary folk, eager to accommodate your need. There's always a chance that you will encounter self-centered Yahoos who think it's funny to impede others, or thugs looking for victims to intimidate and bully. But there's really no linguistic strategy to meet situations like that—as they say, "That's life in the big city".

  • 2
    Yes, there is clearly no rule for all situations . A reasonable rule of thumb is to try out a few different ways of saying excuse me, asking yourself how you would react if anyone said them to you. In these sorts of circumstances a little bit of charm and good humour can go a very long way. It is worth cultivating.
    – WS2
    Dec 28, 2015 at 12:09

I'm going to make some assumptions starting from the phrase you used "I am not sure whether...they looked down on their opposite gender".

I'm going to assume this is exactly the case. To understand what's happening here, you will need some background about racism and sexism in the U.S. and certain other English-speaking countries, as well as the nature of interactions which some people call microaggressions. You will also need to know that many people believe individual discrimination has been largely eliminated, but based on my personal observations of many interactions, I believe this view is very pernicious and inaccurate.

With that background, it is reasonable to assume that the people blocking your way were disrespecting you on purpose.

Unfortunately, I don't have a simple recommendation how you can avoid these endemic societal maladies. I could suggest you avoid saying "sir" (and especially "sirs" which is even more formal) to people blocking your path (in my city, a typical level of respect among strangers on the street is to say "excuse me" and push your way around them without slowing down). I could suggest you avoid speaking in any way that might let others see you as weak. But I'm not going to recommend any of this, because I disagree with blaming the victim of discrimination. What I am going to recommend, is that you don't take it personally, but share your experiences with others in order to support wider understanding and building a society that has more equity and compassion.

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