LESSON 1: The importance of being polite in England

Download lesson 1 in a PDF file


bulb       THINK:

  • Are English people polite?
  • Are Polish people polite?
  • Compare those two nationalities in terms of politeness.


READING – Read the text and answer the questions.

Translation table explaining the truth behind British politeness becomes Internet hit.

The British trait of being too polite to speak one’s mind has led to a table translating numerous hollow English phrases becoming an Internet hit.

The table sheds light on just how difficult it can be for a foreigner to understand what the British really mean when they’re speaking ? especially for those take every word at face value.

Phrases that prove the trickiest to decipher include 'you must come for dinner', which foreigners tend to take as a direct invitation, but is actually said out of politeness by many Britons and often does not result in an invite.

The table also reveals that when a person from Britain begins a sentence „with the greatest respect …', they actually mean 'I think you are an idiot'.


I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect You are an idiot He is listening to me
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It doesn’t really matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please rewrite completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not yet decided


The table points out that when Britons say 'I’m sure it’s my fault', it actually means 'it’s your fault'.
It also reveals that 'very interesting' can often mean ’that is clearly nonsense'.
The table, which has been posted on an number of blogs, has attracted thousands of comments from both Britons and foreigners claiming the interpretations are true to life.

Duncan Green, a strategic adviser for Oxfam who posted it online, described it as „a handy guide for our fellow Europeans and others trying to fathom weaselly Brit-speak„. Mr Green said: „Sadly, I didn?t write it. It?s just one of those great things that is being passed around on the Internet.” Although the author of the table is unconfirmed, it is thought it may have originally been drawn up by a Dutch company as an attempt to help employees working in the UK.


Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral is the epitome of British politeness

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10280244/Translation-table-explaining-the-truth-behind-British-politeness-becomes-internet-hit.html


Understanding the text


Answer the questions below:

Explain the general idea of the text.
Has the text surprised you?
Which of the translations do you find the most funny, surprising or unbelievable one?

 Build at least three questions to the text.




Exercise 1:

Try to deduce the meaning of the highlighted words and match them with their definitions.


hollow ?  
  1. a person or tding tdat is a perfect example of a particular quality or type
decipher ?  
  1. witdout meaning
fellow  ?  
  1. to be able to understand sometding after tdinking about it a lot
fatdom  ?  
  1. a man
epitome  ?  
  1. sly
weaselly  ?  
  1. to discover what something says or means



Exercise 2:

Complete the sentences with the words from the previous exercise.


hollow decipher fellow fathom
weaselly epitome    


  1. He’s a , conniving thief.
  2. Somehow the outfit was the of French chic with a very modern twist.
  3. Your son’s a bright little .
  4. No one could why she had left so early.
  5. It’s sometimes difficult to  his handwriting.
  6. His promises are often .



  1. He’s a weaselly, conniving thief.
  2. Somehow the outfit was the epitome of French chic with a very modern twist.
  3. Your son’s a bright little fellow.
  4. No one could fathom why she had left so early.
  5. It’s sometimes difficult to decipher his handwriting.
  6. His promises are often hollow.




Answer the detailed questions using the words from the previous exercise.

  1. Do the sentences in the article have a second meaning?
  2. Do English people tend to say things out of politeness?
  3. On the whole does the article imply English people to be polite or not?


keep-calmSERIOUS TIPS 😉

No matter whether you consider English people to be polite or not, the way they express themselves is always very polite.

The two key words are PLEASE and THANK YOU.

Don’t forget to use them, as they do, otherwise you might be perceived as a rude person.

There are also other ways of being polite in English and you will find them out in the next lessons!

READ the text and remember the rules.

Minding Your Ps and Qs in English

All too often we get caught up in the world with our busy lives. It’s easy to forget the simplicities in life, like saying please and thank you. These days we have a lot on our minds. Yet, five simple words can improve the world we live in, if only we incorporate them into our daily lives.

A simple Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me go a long way in showing a person to be well mannered. Saying Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me is the beginning of developing one’s social graces.

Do you still remember when to use Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me? When you need a favour from somebody, adding a Please to the request is basic courtesy. At the dinner table, for example, you can say „can you pass the salt please?”. When the favour is done, it would be good to say „Thank You” to the person who helped you. Excuse Me is used when you need someone’s attention, such as asking a stranger on the street for directions. „Excuse me, do you know where King’s Avenue is?” It is also used when you need to get past someone who is in your path.

Early on during our childhood, our parents taught us how to say Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me. However, when we reach our teenage years we took for granted saying Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me because we were in a rebellious self-assertive stage. By the time we became adults, we also tend to forget to say Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me because we often get carried away by the rush of our daily lives.

Source: https://www.englishtown.com/community/Channels/article.aspx?articleName=psandqs




Ask for the things in a polite way.

  • ask someone to pass you the salt / a tissue / a glass of water / your glasses,
  • ask someone to tell you the time,
  • ask someone for help with something for example with a copy machine,
  • ask someone for a piece of information that you need for your work.