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There are several places where we might ask someone to sit down, such as when we extend that invitation to a friend in our home, or to a business associate in a conference room.

Of these two (which are heard rather often):

  • Have a seat.
  • Please sit down.

is one of them more appropriate than the other to ask people whom you do not know too well to sit and have a talk? Would one of them be more appropriate than the other in a more formal setting?

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    Either is fine; you may even combine them: "Please, have a seat, sit down." Your tone and demeanour are far more important than the words. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 30 '13 at 21:55
  • I find for appropriate sentences for this situation. surely tones are important but it is not my question. Emm.. I think Please have a seat,sit down is a good choice! Thanks! – Persian Cat Jul 1 '13 at 12:38
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    I can't see why this was closed. How is a non-native supposed to know if one of these would be inappropriate for a formal meeting, or among strangers? There are several ways I can offer someone to take a seat, from the rather formal, "Please, take a seat," to the much more harsh, "Sit your ass down." Why can't a non-native can't ask for native expertise on ELL to be clued in on which can be used in what setting? That said, I've tried to massage the question a bit to make it more acceptable, but I'm quite disappointed this question was closed. – J.R. Jul 2 '13 at 10:14
  • @J.R. Thanks for your great edit however it has changed it completely but I think it was a positive change and I can learn from it. ;) – Persian Cat Jul 2 '13 at 12:23
  • P.C.: Sometimes it's important to tweak a question to give it more value to the overall community. You can still get your personal question answered, but the question itself will be more immune to downvotes and close votes if it's presented with the broader audience in mind. – J.R. Jul 2 '13 at 16:27
5

In this context, I would say “please have a seat”. You're inviting the person to sit down, but not formally request that they sit down, merely offering the possibility.

“Please take a seat” is also possible, but slightly less deferential. It tends to be used in contexts where the person really should sit, for example by a doctor talking to a patient.

“Please sit down” and “please be seated” are more directive. For example, an air hostess might tell a passenger on a plane to “please be seated”, because the passenger really must seat while the aircraft is in motion. However, tone is key: it is possible to say “Please, sit down” (or perhaps that should be “Please! Sit down!”), with a pause after “please” and the right intonation, to convey that you are happy to see the person and cordially inviting them to sit down.

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3

In general, "have a seat" is more polite; "please sit down" is more of an order. A teacher might tell her students, "please sit down". A host would be more likely to say to a guest, "have a seat".

As others have noted, tone and context is also important.

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1

In a context where you are not ordering the other person around, requests like “Won't you have a seat?”, “Would you like a chair?”, “Will you sit down?”, and similar are more likely to be used than commands like “Have a seat” or “Please sit down”. (Note, “Please be seated” is a slightly less peremptory form of the latter.)

What you should say is quite context dependent; without a description of the particular context of interest, a specific answer isn't possible. Also, as StoneyB commented, your tone and how you behave as you talk to the other party are quite important. Most phrases can be delivered as politely or as rudely as the speaker chooses.

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  • I think I have explained it before! There is a meeting formal/informal and you want to ask people to sit whom you do not know them well! So what kind of context do you want more than it? :) – Persian Cat Jul 1 '13 at 12:36
  • @PersianCat: "Meeting formal/informal" doesn't really narrow it down too much. "Formal meeting" sounds like a business meeting, "informal meeting" sounds like a casual meeting between friends. I probably wouldn't say, "Please, have a seat" to a close acquaintance coming over to watch a football game. On the other hand, I wouldn't say, "Plop yourself down wherever you'd like" in my office's conference room. – J.R. Jul 2 '13 at 10:09
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    I don't think this is right at all. At least in the U.S., saying "Have a seat" could certainly be an invitation rather than a command. "Please sit down" might be an order, but when you add a comma, "Please, sit down" that becomes an invitation as well. "Won't you have a seat?" and "Will you sit down?" sound weird to me in general, but if someone said one of those to me, I would take it as an indirect order. – Daniel Jul 2 '13 at 17:53
  • I only ever hear "please be seated" in church. I can maybe extend that usage to any other largish group with a leader/M.C., but it's not something I would ever say to a single person. – Martha Aug 19 '13 at 15:11
  • "Please have a seat" will be OK in both informal and formal situations. If you want to get people away from the coffee and pastry table and start the meeting, you can say "Shall we all sit down?" "Please be seated" is more formal and could sound peremptory, particularly if you are junior to some of the people you are addressing. – user21508 Jul 25 '15 at 15:53

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