I am wondering how people ask if they can handle a particular item in a shop, to check how it works or look at it more closely.

My guess would be "Can I watch it?" but it is probably not so good.

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    In addition to the suggestions below, you could also ask to “check it out” or “try it out” if you wanted to be more clear that you would be manipulating and/or otherwise interacting with the object. You may already be aware of various ways of making requests, but I’ll add that your choice between “can”, “could”, and “may” can make your request more formal/proper/polite(/subservient/obsequious), as can the inclusion of “please”. How much familiarity is appropriate for the situation will be a matter of judgement, but most people would agree: you’ll get a “yes” more often if you ask nicely. Aug 23, 2013 at 21:06

1 Answer 1


You would say something like:

Could I take a look at it, please?

The key distinction here is that 'take a look' can be used similarly to 'inspect' or 'examine' in this case. For example, you could instead ask:

Could I examine it, please?

Whereas 'watch' in this sense would mean to observe something over a period of time, such as watching TV or a football match.

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    "May I see it, please?" is another way to say this.
    – J.R.
    Aug 23, 2013 at 20:01
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    +1 to the answer and @J.R.'s comment. Also I'd note that you're more likely to use that than it; you're probably indicating the object while you're saying this. I suppose it could make sense ("Do you have the Thingymabob 9000?" "Yes, we do." "May I see it, please?"). But if you're indicating the item without previous reference, use that.
    – WendiKidd
    Aug 23, 2013 at 21:14
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    @WendiKidd: If my experience is typical, the item in question is in a glass case with several similar items, and the conversation goes something like this :^) me: "May I see one of the watches, please? I mean the one with the silver wristband." clerk, pointing: "You mean this one?" me: "No, not that one, the one over on that side." [clerk points to a different watch] "Almost – I mean the one behind that one." [clerk moves hand back a little bit, and points to the right watch] "Yes, that one... may I see it, please?"
    – J.R.
    Aug 23, 2013 at 21:54
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    "Could I examine it" is a little stilted (in US English that is :) unless this was evidence in a court. Since it's a shop, I'd just as "Can I take a look at it, please ?" Aug 24, 2013 at 2:49
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    And "Can I try it, please?" if it's something you want to use to see how it works (but "try it on" for clothes!).
    – nxx
    Jan 16, 2014 at 17:15

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