Requests & Refusals
Luis Carlos Lasso Montenegro
She/he may hesitate
to make requests for
fear of exposing a
need or out of fear
of possibly making
the recipient lose
The recipient may
feel that the request
is an intrusion on
his/her freedom of
FACE-THREATENING - INTRUSIVE - DEMANDING
Requests occur when the speaker infringes on
the recipient’s freedom from imposition.
Refer to contextual preconditions necessary for its
performance as conventionalized in the language.
R: Could you clean up the bedroom, please?
Marked explicitly as requests, such as imperatives.
R: You’ll have to clean up the bedroom.
Hints - Partially referring to the object depending on
R: Your bedroom is a total mess.
•Hearer-oriented (emphasis on the role of the hearer)
Could you clean up the kitchen, please?
• Speaker-oriented (emphasis on the speaker’s role)
Do you think I could borrow your notes from yesterday’s
Can I borrow your notes from yesterday?
•Speaker- and hearer-oriented (inclusive strategy)
So, could we tidy up the apartment soon?
So it might not be a bad idea to get it cleaned up.
Refusals and rejections can mean
disapproval of the interlocutor's idea and
therefore, a threat to the interlocutor's face.
Refusals tend to be indirect, include mitigation, and/or delay
within the turn or across turns. The delay probably shows
that the refuser has a good reason for refusing and may
imply that would accept or agree instead.
• Statement of regret: I'm sorry.../I feel terrible...
•Excuse, reason, explanation.
• Statement of alternative: I'd rather.../I'd prefer...
•Promise of future acceptance:
I'll do it next time./I promise I'll.../Next time I'll...
•Statement of principle: I never do business with friends
Nonverbal (Hesitation, physical departure, silence…)
Verbal (Topic switch, joke, repetition of request,…)
•Using performative verbs/Non performative statements
I refuse to… I object to… I deny / I can´t… I won’t… I don‘t...
Refusals can be seen as a series
of the following sequences:
• Pre-refusal strategies: these
strategies prepare the addressee
for an upcoming refusal.
• Main refusal (Head Act): this
strategy expresses the main
•Post-refusal strategies: these
strategies follow the head act
and tend to
emphasize, justify, mitigate, or
conclude the refusal response.
I was wondering if you
might be able to stay a
bit late this evening,
say, until about 9:00
p.m. or so.
Uh, I’d really like to
But I can’t
I have plans
I really can’t stay