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Урок 21. Asking permission. (Вопрос о разрешении.)

Jackie: Hello this is BBC Learning English dot com, with me, Jackie Dalton. This programme is about asking permission – which means asking someone if you’re allowed to do something. We’re going to hear examples from around the office. Listen to this first example, which shows one of the most common ways of asking permission.

Examples
Hinna, can I use your computer for a minute?

Jackie: Very simple: the phrase ‘can I’ followed by the verb. But what verb form comes after the phrase ‘can I’? Listen to these two examples of asking.

Examples
Can he call you back later?
Can I use your scissors?

Jackie: ‘Can’ is the base form of the verb, which is the infinitive without ‘to. Now let’s listen to a slightly different way of asking permission.

Examples
Oh Emily, I forgot to bring my phone charger today, could I borrow yours for a minute please?

Jackie: Instead of ‘can I borrow’, we hear ‘could I…?’ Using ‘Could I…?’ instead of ‘Can I…?’ sounds slightly more formal. You might use ‘could’ if you want to be more polite. Like the word ‘can’, ‘could’ is always used with the base infinitive form of the verb.

Examples
Could she write me a summary of the report?

Jackie: You may have spotted a phrase that came up at the end of a couple of the phrases we heard earlier.

Examples
Hinna, can I use your computer for a minute?
Oh Emily, I forgot to bring my phone charger today, could I borrow yours for a minute please?

Jackie: Both speakers asked permission to do something ‘for a minute’. They didn’t literally mean they would spend sixty seconds using the computer or borrowing the phone charger. But it’s a way of showing that you only want to borrow something for a short time and you’re trying not to bother the other person too much.

Examples
Hinna, can I use your computer for a minute?
Oh Emily, I forgot to bring my phone charger today, could I borrow yours for a minute please?

Jackie: We also heard the magic word ‘please’ at the end of that question. Parents often get very cross with their children if they ask permission without using the word ‘please’. But the reality is that it’s often fine not to include it. We tend to use intonation in our questions to sound polite, so we don’t always need the extra ‘please’. Listen to these examples. The first doesn’t sound very polite.

Examples
Could I have that. (demanding)

Jackie: But the second…

Examples
Could I have that? (questioning)

Jackie: Sounds more like a polite question than an aggressive demand because of the way the voice goes up.

Examples
Could I have that. (demanding)
Could I have that? (questioning)

Jackie: Listen to some more examples of the differences.

Examples
Could I see you.
Could I see you?

Jackie: The second phrase came across as a polite question, unlike the first. What
about here?

Examples
Could you give that to me?
Could you give that to me.

Jackie: This time, the first question was sounded more polite because of the way it was asked. As long as you ask your question in a polite tone of voice, you need a ‘please’ – having said that, there’s never anything wrong with using ‘please’ when asking permission.

Jackie: Let’s look at another structure for asking permission.

Examples
Matt, would it be OK if I took the afternoon off on Friday?

Jackie: Would it be OK if – fairly informal way of asking permission. You could also say ‘Would it be alright if…?’ What verb form follows these questions?

Examples
Matt, would it be OK if I took the afternoon off on Friday?
I’m not feeling well today would it be alright if I did this tomorrow?

Jackie: In both these cases, the phrases are followed by the past subjunctive form of the verb. However, you could also use the present form – this sounds slightly less formal.

Examples
Matt, would it be OK if I take the afternoon off on Friday?
I’m not feeling well today would it be alright if I do this tomorrow?

Jackie: So ‘Would it be OK if…? and ‘Would it be alright if…?’ can be followed by the present or, for a slightly more formal effect, the past subjunctive. If you want to be even more polite, another variation on the structures we’ve just heard is ‘Would I be able to…?’

Examples
Would I be able to talk to you about something?

Jackie: ‘Would I be able to’ – a polite way of asking permission. Now it’s time to check you’ve understood the things we’ve looked at. Which of these requests is correct – the first or the second?

Examples
Can she sits here?
Can she sit here?

Jackie: The second phrase is correct – remember ‘Do you mind if…?’ is used with the base infinitive verb form. Now, w hich of these two questions sounds the most formal?

Examples
Would I be able to talk to you about something?
Is it OK if I leave early?

Jackie: The first question is more formal ‘Would I be able to…?’ sounds more distant than ‘Is it OK if I…? That’s all for this week, but in a later programme we’ll be exploring some of the structures you can use to answer these questions.