When someone asks you if you would like to have something, they make you an offer. You can either accept it or refuse it. Offers can be polite or less polite, and sometimes they can be more confident or less confident. If you are a learner of English, then you would probably like to know how to accurately express, accept or refuse an offer in this beautiful language. The article will show you how.
Offering Something to Someone
There are several ways of offering something to someone in English. A polite way of offering something that most learners are familiar with is to use the expression ‘Would you like…?‘ For example:
- Would you like a cup of tea? / Would you like a biscuit or something?
When you’re talking to someone you know well, you can use the less polite form ‘Do you want…?‘ For instance:
- Do you want a cup of tea? / Do you want a biscuit?
When you know the person well, and you want to be more persuasive, you can use the imperative form have:
- Have some more coffee. / Have another slice of cake.
In very informal situations you can also use just a noun group, making it sound like a question:
- A: Black coffee? B: Yes, please. / A: Tea? B: No, thanks.
A note: British people often use the verb fancy as a way of informally offering something. For example:
- Fancy a drink? meaning Do you want a drink?
- Fancy some coffee? / Fancy a biscuit?
Sometimes you are offering something that is not immediately available. In such situations you can use the expression ‘Can I get you something?‘ For example:
- Can I get you something to drink? / Can I get you something to eat? / Let me get you something to drink. / Let me get you something to eat. / Can I get you anything? A cup of tea or coffee? Some juice? / Sit down and let me get you some cake.
If you want the other person to take what they need, you should use the expressions ‘Help yourself‘ or ‘Help yourself to something’:
- A: Do you suppose I could have a glass of wine? B: Of course. You know where everything is. Help yourself.
- Please help yourself to some coffee. / Help yourself to sugar.
When you are offering help to someone, you can say ‘Shall I…?’:
- Shall I fetch a nurse? / Shall I fetch the doctor?
If you are fairly sure that the other person wants to have something done for them, you can say ‘Let me…‘ :
- Let me buy you a drink. / Let me carry your briefcase. / Let me help.
Less Confident Offers
If you are not sure whether the other person wants you to do something, you can make a less confident offer. You can say ‘Do you want me to…?‘, ‘Should I…?‘ or, more politely, ‘Would you like me to…?‘. For example:
- Do you want me to help you with your homework?
- Should I help you find a good doctor?
- Would you like me to take your shoes off?
Another way of making a less confident offer (when you are not sure that it is necessary) is to add ‘…if you want‘ or ‘…if you like‘ after using ‘I’ll…‘ or ‘I can…‘. For instance:
- I’ll drive you back home if you want.
- I can show you my new house right now if you like.
‘Can I…‘ is also used to make a less confident offer:
- Can I give you a lift anywhere?
Sometimes you can also use the verb need to make an offer. For example:
- Do you need anything?
Offers to a Customer
Shop and company employees sometimes say ‘Can I …‘ or ‘May I…‘ when they are politely offering their help to a customer on the phone or in person:
- Flight information, can I help you?
- Dorsey & Whitney, Jamie speaking, how may I help you?
Replying to an Offer
The most usual way of accepting an offer is to say ‘Yes, please‘ or ‘Thank you/Thanks‘. For example:
- A: Would you like some coffee? B: Yes, please.
- A: Have a banana. B: Thank you. / Thanks.
When you want to show that you are very grateful for an offer, especially an unexpected one, you can say something like ‘Thank you, that would be great‘ or ‘Oh, thank you, that would be lovely‘. You can also say ‘That’s very kind of you‘, which is a more formal alternative. For example:
- A: Shall I run you a bath? B: Yes, please! That would be lovely/great.
- A: Shall I help you carry the shopping? B: Thank you. That’s very kind of you.
The usual way of refusing an offer is to say ‘No, thank you‘ or, informally, ‘No, thanks‘. You can also say something like ‘No, I’m fine, thank you‘, ‘I’m alright, thanks‘, or ‘No, it’s alright‘. For example:
- A: Do you want a lift? B: No, I’m alright, thanks. I don’t mind walking.
- A: Shall I cook dinner tonight? B: No, it’s alright.
If someone says they will do something for you, you can also refuse their offer politely by saying ‘Please don’t bother‘:
- A: I’ll get you some water. B: Please don’t bother.
If you have read the article carefully, you may have noticed the use of modal verbs in many of the above expressions. Modal verbs are a type of auxiliary (helping) verbs, and they are used to indicate the necessity or possibility of an event, and to make offers, requests, and suggestions. The modals used in the above expressions are will, would, can, shall, should, and may.