Asking for a Favor in English

How to Ask for, Grant and Deny Favors

Boss speaking with employee
"Could you possibly work overtime today?". Hitoshi Nishimura / Getty Images

It's common to ask for favors from friends, relatives, your family, and your colleagues. It's important to be polite when you are asking for a favor. Use these phrases to politely asking for a favor. Pay special attention to the form of the verb used.

Asking a Favor

Could / Would you do me a favor? - Use this form to ask in general if someone will do a favor for you as a way to begin the conversation.

Would you do me a favor? I need some help.
Could you do me a favor? I'm late for work ...

Could you please + verb - Use the simple form of the verb (do) to ask for help with specific situation in polite situations.

Could you please take me to work?
Could you please lend me a hand?

Could you possibly + verb - Use the simple form of the verb to ask for help with specific situations with being very polite. 

Could I possibly take some time off to help?
Could you possibly work overtime today?

Could I ask / bother / trouble you + infinitive - Use the infinitive form of the verb (to do) to ask for a favor in formal situations. 

Could I ask you to help my brother?
Could I bother you to give a ride to work?
Could I trouble you to open the door for me?

Would you mind + verb + ing - Use the gerund form of the verb (doing) to ask for a favor in every day situations.

Would you mind closing the window?
Would you mind cooking dinner tonight?

Would it be too much trouble for you + infinitive - Use this form with the infinitive to ask for a favor in very formal situations.

Would it be too much trouble for you to let me come in late tomorrow?
Would it be too much trouble for you to take a look at this letter?

May I + verb? - Use the simple form of the verb with 'may' when the favor you're asking requires permission.

May I leave class early?
May we use your telephone?

Granting a Favor

If you would like to say "yes" to someone who asks you for a favor, you can grant the favor using these phrases:

Sure
No problem.
I'd be happy to help you.
It would be my pleasure.
I'd be glad to help out.

It's common to ask for more specifics when granting a favor. For instance, if your friend asks you to help him out with a project, you might ask some follow up questions to get an idea of what is needed.

Refusing a Favor

If you are unable to help out and need to say "no", you can refuse a favor with these responses:

I'm afraid I can't.
Sorry, but I'm unable + infinitive
Unfortunately, I'm not able + infinitive.
Regrettably, I can't + verb

Saying 'no', is never fun, but sometimes it's necessary. It's common to offer a different solution to try to help out even if you can't do the favor.

Asking for a Favor which is Granted

Peter: Hi Anna. I've got a favor to ask. Would you mind cooking dinner tonight? I'm kind of busy.
Anna: Sure, Peter. What would you like for dinner?
Peter: Could I trouble you to make some pasta?
Anna: That's sounds good. Let's have pasta. Which type of sauce should I make?
Peter: Would it be too much trouble to make a four cheese sauce?


Anna: No, that's easy. Yum. Good idea.
Peter: Thanks Anna. That really helps me out.
Anna: No problem.

Mark: Hey, could you please help me with the homework?
Susan: I'd be glad to help out. What seems to be the problem.
Mark:: I don't get this equation. Would you mind explaining it to me?
Susan: No problem. It's difficult!
Mark: Yeah, I know. Thanks a lot.
Susan: Don't worry about it.

Asking for a Favor which is Refused

Employee: Hello, Mr. Smith. Could I ask you a question?
Boss: Sure, what do you need?
Employee: Would it be too much trouble for you to let me come in at 10 tomorrow morning?
Boss: Oh, that's a little difficult.
Employee: Yes, I know it's last moment, but I have to go to the dentist.
Boss: I'm afraid I can't let you come in late tomorrow. We really need you at the meeting.
Employee: OK, I just thought I'd ask.

I'll get a different appointment.
Boss: Thanks, I appreciate it.

Brother: Hey. Would you mind letting me watch my show?
Sister: Sorry, but I can't do that.
Brother: Why not?!
Sister: I'm watching favorite show now.
Brother: But I'm going to miss my favorite game show!
Sister: Watch it online. Don't bother me.
Brother: Could you please watch your show online, it's a rerun!
Sister: Sorry, but I'm unable to do that. You'll just have to watch it later.

Practice Situations

Find a partner and use these suggestions to practice asking for favors, as well as granting and refusing favors as shown in the examples. Make sure to vary the language you use when practicing rather than using the same phrase over and over again.

Ask someone to ...

  • loan you $50 for the weekend
  • help you with your homework
  • assist you with some paperwork such as filling out a form
  • give you a ride
  • check your writing or correct your grammar
  • practice speaking English with you
  • cook a meal
  • let you take a day off work

More English Functions

There are a wide range of English functions such as making suggestions, giving advice and contrasting ideas