How to Ask For and Offer Help in English

If you are thinking of travelling abroad, you will definitely want to be able to offer your assistance if necessary. When at the airport, you may want to help someone put their bags in the overhead lockers once they have boarded the plane. Or, in a big city, you could come across someone who is having difficulties finding a monument and offer to help them get their bearings in the city.

But the opposite can also be true. What happens if you are at the airport and can’t find your gate or have had an accident and need assistance? It is common to ask for and offer help – that is why you should know how a number of different ways to do so in English. Shall we begin?


Offering Help in English

In some languages, there is not a wide variety of expressions that can be used to offer assistance. In English, however, the situation is more complicated since English has many expressions to offer help. Each expression has a precise and nuanced meaning and is only used in particular situations.

Here we have created a list of expressions you can use to offer help in English, starting with the most formal. If any of this seems confusing, you should try our online English course. It will definitely clear up any of your doubts!


Offering Help Interrogatives

May I (do something)?: May is a modal verb that indicates a possibility, a concession, or a request. In its interrogative form, may can be a very formal way of offering help.

  • May I offer you my help?
  • May I carry your bag for you?

Would you like me to (do something)?: Would … like is the conditional form of like which can be used to express an offer of help to someone. It is a formal and kind way to express yourself.

  • Would you like me to open the window?
  • Would you like me to bring you a drink?

Can I (do something)?: The modal verb can is used to offer help somewhat less formally while still being kind. This means you can use it with friends as well as strangers. It is a warm way of showing your desire to do something for the other person.

  • Can I bring you a dessert?
  • Can I give you a lift?

Do you want me to (do something)?: While less formal than the previous forms, this interrogative is no less kind. It is used when you are not completely sure of the answer your offer will receive.

  • Do you want me to go for you?
  • Do you want me to come to pick you up?

Shall I (do something)?: This verb does not have very widespread use, especially in the United States, where it has practically disappeared. It is only used for first person singular and plural. It is an encouraging way to express your wish to assist someone.

  • Shall I turn off the radio?
  • Shall I help you with your homework?


Offering Help Affirmatives

I’d be happy to (do something): This construction is a very formal way of offering your help. It is often used in the workplace or between people who do not know each other well.

  • I’d be happy to reschedule the appointment.
  • I’d be happy to go with you.

I can (do something): The modal verb can is a kind way to offer help to someone, in both its interrogative and affirmative forms.

  • I can write this email for you.
  • I can go buy some coffee if you want.

Let me (do something): This expression is a kind but informal way of offering assistance to someone.

  • Let me help you with your jacket.
  • Let me find out if it’s true.

I will (do something): The simple future represents an informal way to offer aid. Use it with people who you know well and who will be happy to accept your help.

  • I’ll go shopping for you.
  • I’ll go to the chemist’s/pharmacy for you.


Asking for Help in English

To request help in English, the easiest way is to use a question. These questions can be formed in a number of ways with varying levels of politeness. Here is a list of ways to request help in English, starting with the most formal.


Requesting Help Interrogatives

Would you mind (doing something)?: This is the most polite and formal way of asking someone to do something for you. You are literally asking if it would bother them to do something for you. Keep in mind that the verb for this interrogative needs to be in the gerund.

  • Would you mind getting the door for me?
  • Would you mind helping me find my keys?

Would you (do something)?: This is a bit less formal than the previous version but is still very polite and can be used in any situation.

  • Would you help me carry this bag?
  • Would you turn off the light, please?

Could you (do something)?: Very similar to the previous option, this is used to ask someone for something. If you want to make it more polite, add a possibly after the you and before the verb.

  • Could you come here, please?
  • Could you possibly show me where the nearest metro stop is?

Do you (do something)?: While less formal than the previous forms, this interrogative is no less kind. It is used when you are not completely sure of the answer your offer will receive.

  • Do you want me to go for you?
  • Do you want me to come to pick you up?


Using Question Tags

One special way to ask for help in English is to use a question tag. For this, you need to make a negative statement and follow it with a question tag. To be polite, the question tag here should be either “could you?” or “would you?

  • You couldn’t tell me where the police station is, could you?
  • You wouldn’t know where I can find a good restaurant near here, would you?

These expressions are all great options to either offer or request help in English. However, it is important to know that there are no strict rules. The best way to learn the appropriate expression for each occasion is to practice. If you need to improve your English, ABA English is here to assist you. We offer 144 video lessons and short films to help you learn to communicate in English easily and naturally. What are you waiting for? Take our free level test and come join us!

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  1. Thanks a lot. It is very useful

  2. This website was… howw do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me.

    Appreciate it!

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