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How to Be More Polite British Style

Politeness the British way

How to Be More Polite British Style, the UK flagBrits are notorious for being the epitome of politeness, grace, manners and absolute discretion. So how do they do it?

There is far too much to cover in only one article but being inspired by one of my lessons, I’ve decided to talk about adjectives and their use in the English language, by discussing how to be more polite in English.

Now, before we go on to examine how the British use these said adjectives, let us have a look at what an adjective is.

An adjective is a word that describes a noun. It can have a positive meaning such as happy, excited, funny, etc. or a negative meaning such as bored, dangerous, overworked, etc.

British people are exceptionally polite, therefore, they generally strive to use inoffensive words or expressions instead of ones that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant.

So, how does this translate into everyday English you may ask? Well, let us consider the following situation:

We’re in London. Sunday morning. The sun is shining and everyone is exceptionally happy seeing as it is such a rare occasion. So we decide to go to the park. Thirty minutes later it pours down. But not just a slight drizzle, actual cats and dogs, street flooding; I need a life vest rain.

how to be more polite in English, cartoon of man and woman talking with speech bubbles
Kate (citizen of the world): I can’t believe it’s raining. The weather is horrible!

Tomas (British): The weather isn’t very nice today. That’s rather unfortunate.

Notice anything? Both of our friends are massively disappointed with the rather unpredictable change in weather, however, they choose different ways to express it. Kate uses a very negative adjective (horrible) but Tomas uses a positive adjective (nice) putting the verb in the negative form.

Let’s consider another example:

Kate: This room far too small. There’s no way it will seat 20 people.

Tomas: This room isn’t very big. Let’s hope all of us will be able to find a seat.

So again, instead of using a negative adjective, Tomas uses the positive one (big) with a verb in the negative form. Looking at the second sentences in both examples, one will notice that the difference goes beyond the simple use of positive and negative adjectives. The British are optimistic by nature and always try to find the “silver lining”; therefore, turning a negative situation into a positive.

So a quick culture note for those living or planning to live in the UK; use the positive adjective with a verb in the negative form to express dissatisfaction or make a negative comment. It makes you sound more polite, pleasant and optimistic! ☺

Rewrite the sentences so they sound more positive and optimistic! ☺
1. The weather is horrible.
2. That film was so boring I fell asleep half way through.
3. It is very difficult to learn a foreign language.
4. He is the most stingy person I’ve ever met.
5. It’s highly unlikely that you will find a decent place to live unless you spend a lot of money on rent.

Suggested answers:
1. The weather isn’t very nice.
2. To be honest, that film wasn’t very interesting. I fell asleep half way through.
3. It isn’t easy learning a foreign language.
4. He isn’t (exactly) the most generous person I’ve ever met.
5. It isn’t likely that you will find a nice place to live unless you spend a lot of money on rent.

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