The Internet TESL Journal

Politeness in Movies

Donna Hurst Tatsuki
tatsuki [at]

Politeness in requests can be marked in a variety of ways in English, not only with the word "please". Here is an activity to draw learners' awareness to the language forms in English that are used to mark politeness or the lack of it. To make this more concrete, a scene from the movie The Graduate will be used.


Politeness in Movies


Asking other people to do things is known as making a request. Requests take many different forms and may be very polite, moderately polite or not very polite (rude). Sort these request forms into the three categories. Feel free to add other examples to the list.

Requests in The Graduate

(in the seduction scene starting as the car pulls up in front to the Robinson house ending with the famous shot taken from between Mrs. Robinson's crossed legs)

Put an X beside the politeness forms that are used during this scene.

Answer Key for the Handout

  Would you come in please?
X Will you come in please?
  Can you come in please?
  I want you to come in till I get the lights on.
  Come in until I get the lights on.
X I'd like you to come in till I get the lights on.
X Would you mind walking ahead of me to the sun porch?
  Could I get you to walk ahead of me to the sun porch?
  Would you walk ahead of me to the sun porch?
  Please come in.
X Please (gesture inside)
  May I get you a drink?
  What would you like to drink?
X What do you drink
  What will you have?
  Why don't you wait until my husband get home?
X Please wait until my husband gets home.
X May I ask you a question?
  Do you mind if I ask you a question?
  I want to ask you a question.
  Please don't get up, Benjamin
X Sit down Benjamin.

This is a sub-page of ESL/EFL Lessons Using Movies
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IV, No. 3, March 1998