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I don't know what the differences are between these phrases:

  1. Are you able to ...
  2. Would you be able to ...
  3. Can you ...
  4. Could you ....
  5. Would you ....

I am particularly interested in knowing which phrase is best to use when making a request to a superior person at a work place. What if a manager wants their employee to do something for them?

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I would say that "Can you" and "Could you" were fairly informal - "Could you throw me that teatowel?" "Would you" is a polite request - "Would you come this way please?". I think one of the first two would be best when asking a superior to do something for you, or "Would you mind doing X?"

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