English for your summer holiday
When it comes to English, it’s usually those sudden exchanges with strangers that throw you off, isn’t it? When you’re at the airport, ready to leave for your summer vacation, thinking in your own language and suddenly one of your fellow travelers is talking to you in English, you just might do a double-take. Come again?
That confusion can be compounded if that stranger happens to be a native speaker and uses an expression that doesn’t necessarily make much sense.
I witnessed one such awkward moment the last time I was in the Amsterdam airport. A guy had his bag on the seat next to him in the waiting area, and the room was getting pretty full. So someone walked up to him and asked:
Would you mind moving your bag so I can sit there?
His answer? Yes.
What’s interesting is that the guy promptly moved his bag, so it was obvious that what he meant to say was no.
Would you Mind?
When someone asks “Would you mind?” they are asking “Would it bother you to…?” or “Could I trouble you to…?”
The polite answer is No, I wouldn’t mind!
After all, it doesn’t really take so much effort to move your bag from the empty seat next to you to allow a tired stranger to sit down. When you answer “no” you are actually saying that yes, you can do what was requested!
You can also say:
Not at all.
Of course not.
Be my guest.
Would you mind covering your nose when you sneeze? (Not at all, I’m sorry for being inconsiderate.)
Would you mind holding the door? (Here you go, after you!)
Would you mind if I opened the window? (Not at all, it’s quite warm in here!)
Yes, I mind!
Sometimes the answer to “Do you mind…?” is yes! However, just a “yes” or “yes, I mind” can be quite short and even a bit rude, so we try to tone it down a bit for the sake of politeness. For example, in most developed countries nowadays, you can’t smoke inside anywhere, so when someone asks you:
Would you mind if I smoke?
You can answer
- Well, actually yes. There’s a non-smoking sign right there, so maybe you could go outside?
- Sorry, but yes. Inhaling your carcinogens makes me feel sick.