How to use polite expressions & greetings

Written by erika sanders
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How to use polite expressions & greetings
Saying, "Thank you," along with a hug is a polite way to express gratitude to a friend or family member. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Politeness is not just about the words you use but also timing and sincerity. When you are polite, you are acknowledging another person's presence, efforts or gestures. Knowing when to use a polite expression or greeting is mostly intuitive, but don't worry if it does not come naturally for you. Watch for situations in which you can practice being polite during your day. Thank customer service people at the mall or a restaurant or use a polite expression for an apology if you have to decline a dinner invitation. The more you practice, the more natural being polite will feel.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Greet people upon a first introduction by saying, "Nice to meet you," or, "It's good to meet you." In a more formal setting such as a business meeting, use the other person's name in your greeting. For example, "Mr. Smith, it is a pleasure to meet you." Using a last name implies you are professional and shows respect to the other person. When greeting someone, offer to shake hands. If you are welcoming people into your home, greet them at the front door and use the expression, "Welcome to our home," as you stand aside to invite them in. You can also use, "So glad you could come," if you are more familiar with your guests.

  2. 2

    Use basic polite expressions and greetings at all times. A simple "please," "thank you" and "you're welcome" can get you politely through most social situations. When ordering a latte at a coffee shop, for example, use "please" as you place your order and thank the person who hands you your drink. When someone thanks you for a gift or gesture say, "You're welcome," or, "No problem. My pleasure." In more formal situations such as your workplace you can thank a co-worker by saying, "I appreciate your assistance." The regular use of simple polite expressions will make your daily interactions more pleasant and leave people you encounter feeling respected and appreciated.

  3. 3

    Apologise using polite expressions such as, "I'm sorry, I can't do it." Or, "I apologise that I'm not able to meet you that day." Sincerity is important when apologising. If you need to apologise for a particular incident during which you offended or hurt someone's feelings -- for example if you've had a fight with your spouse or a friend -- apologise in person so the other party can see as well as hear your sincerity. In these situations, use expressions such as "I'm am really sorry for the way I treated you yesterday at dinner. I'd like to ask for your forgiveness." Be specific in what you are apologising for and give the other person a chance to respond.

Tips and warnings

  • Once you are comfortable with the basic greetings and polite expressions, incorporate your own style to the expressions. This will keep your polite expressions feeling sincere and personal to others.
  • Just because you have decided to be polite does not mean others will extend the same courtesy. When you are confronted with rudeness, do not take it personally. Continue to be polite, if possible, to demonstrate how you would prefer the tone of the conversation to go.

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