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Dear everybody,

I have watched English movies, and I always found that people use simple past for an present moment.

I read on an English site. It says as follows:

  • Never say “I want to ask you a question.” Say “I wanted to ask you a question.“
  • Never say “Do you want to eat?” Say “Did you want to eat?“
Using a past tense provides distance from your request and therefore ensures that your request is not seen as an order

*After reading what shown on that site, I made some question myself . I would like to ask for you favor about this grammar issue.

1)Do you often use past tense in every daily conversions to talk about present moments? Or you only use this way for very formal sistuation?


2)I have some examples, I don't know if they are used correctly by simple past to show politeness

** Conversation 1:

A: It is time for lunch. What did you want to eat? ( More polite than "what do you want to eat?")

B:Anything.


**Conversation 2:

A: I wanted to borrow your pen?

B: Sure, here you are.


3) We can use this way with all the verbs or only some verbs?


Many thanks in advance.

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LE HANH 2383Never say “I want to ask you a question.” Say “I wanted to ask you a question.“

There are four degrees of politeness:

1. I want to ask you a question. (Very direct. In an aggressive tone of voice, it can be confrontational and argumentative.)

2. I wanted to ask you a question. (Less direct. Not aggressive.)

3. I would like to ask you a question. (This is very polite. It is more common that #2. )

4. I would like to ask you a question, please. (This is extremely polite. In the US, it is almost too polite, but we use it when the other person is higher in status than we are.)

LE HANH 2383A: It is time for lunch. What did you want to eat?

No exactly.

John and his coworker, Jim, are friends. They just finished a meeting. It is 12:00 noon. John talks to Jim.

John: It is time for lunch. What do you want to eat? (John does not use "did". )
Jim: I feel like having Chinese today.
John: Me too. There's a new Chinese place within a 5-minute walk. Would you like to try it?

Jim: Let's.

They get to the restaurant, sit down and a waiter comes by. The waiter uses "would" as a polite request.

Waiter: What would you like to drink?

LE HANH 2383**Conversation 2:
A: I wanted to borrow your pen?
B: Sure, here you are.

A's line is not a question. Here is the polite question:

May I borrow your pen? (Extremely polite.)
Can I borrow your pen? (This is strictly not correct, but it is less formal than "may" in the US. We use it all the time..)

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LE HANH 23831)Do you often use past tense in every daily conversions to talk about present moments?

Only when it's the past of politeness. Yes, I'm fond of that construction, and I use it quite a bit, but almost always in questions. By the way, it can also be the past continuous. It doesn't have to be the simple past.

LE HANH 2383 It is time for lunch. What did you want to eat?

That sounds OK to me.

LE HANH 2383I wanted to borrow your pen? pen.

That's not even a question. No, I wouldn't use this one.

LE HANH 2383We can use this way Can we use this construction with all the verbs or only some verbs?

There is no rule or list of verbs that restricts which verbs you can use, but it certainly wouldn't make sense with a great many verbs. It's used mostly with verbs that normally occur in sentences that require some finesse in speaking with others.

Were you thinking of moving now that your parents have both passed away?

CJ

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Comments  

Dear AlpheccaStars,

AlpheccaStars2. I wanted to ask you a question. (Less direct. Not aggressive.)

"I wanted to ask you a question" is correct and It is the polite ways, But Why not " I wanted to borrow your pen"

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Dear CJ

CalifJimI wanted to borrow your pen? pen.That's not even a question. No, I wouldn't use this one.

As I see on the English sorce." I wanted to asked you a question" is correct and polite.
But "I wanted to borrow your pen" is not correct ?? Could you pls explain this for me?


Here I have another sentences and my opinions of each sentences:

(1) He is saying as if he knows ( This is kind of normal and direct statement)

(2) He is saying like he knows ( This is kind of normal and direct statement)

(3) He is saying like he would know ( This one is what i heard from a movie, I wonder that if "Would" in this sentence is just to make sentence more tentative.)

LE HANH 2383As I see on the English source." I wanted to asked ask you a question" is correct and polite.
But "I wanted to borrow your pen" is not correct? ?? Could you pls please explain this for me?

In the first the speaker is asking permission to do something (ask a question). In the second the speaker is asking someone else to do something (give up the pen). They do not seem equivalent to me.

LE HANH 2383

(1) He is saying as if he knows ( This is kind of normal and direct statement)

(2) He is saying like he knows ( This is kind of normal and direct statement)

(3) He is saying like he would know ( This one is what i heard from a movie, I wonder that if "Would" in this sentence is just to make sentence more tentative.)

This is really a different topic, so it should be posted separately, and unfortunately the sentences are faulty, but let's focus on the parts that you are interested in.

as if he knows is better English than like he knows, but the meaning is the same either way.

like he would know, like many, many clauses with would, shows the result of a hypothetical condition. In this case the condition is implicit. He is talking [as if / like] he would know (something) if we asked him. In other words, whatever we did to find out if he really knows, it would lead to the conclusion that he does really know.

CJ

CalifJimThis is really a different topic, so it should be posted separately, and unfortunately the sentences are faulty, but let's focus on the parts that you are interested in.as if he knows is better English than like he knows, but the meaning is the same either way.like he would know, like many, many clauses with would, shows the result of a hypothetical condition. In this case the condition is implicit. He is talking [as if / like] he would know (something) if we asked him. In other words, whatever we did to find out if he really knows, it would lead to the conclusion that he does really know.

Dear CJ

Thanks for this explanation. I get it.

CalifJimIn the first the speaker is asking permission to do something (ask a question). In the second the speaker is asking someone else to do something (give up the pen). They do not seem equivalent to me.

What if i am not asking for the pen the hearer is using.

"I wanted to borrow one of your pens"
Is it fine for this situation?

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LE HANH 2383

What if I am not asking for the pen the hearer is using.

"I wanted to borrow one of your pens."
Is it fine for this situation?

No. It still sounds wrong.

CJ

LE HANH 2383"I wanted to borrow one of your pens"

If you are writing about a past situation, it is ok. Of course, asking for an ordinary pen would be rather strange, but a pen for calligraphy might be reasonable.

Yesterday, I wanted to borrow one of your calligraphic pens and an inkwell, but you were not at home.