How to make suggestions in English

I imagine the reason you are listening to this podcast or reading this article is because you want to improve your English, to take your English to the next level. You might be a competent user of English but I expect you do not consider yourself an expert. In fact, you might consider me to be an expert because I am a) a native speaker of English and b) I have been teaching English for a long time.

Because you consider yourself to be a learner and you consider me to be a teacher, it is normal that you ask me for help, advice, and you value my opinion (I hope).

In this episode, therefore, I’m going to talk about making suggestions.

One way to look at the wider area of advice and suggestions is to think about 3 different levels:

The first level is making suggestions. When we make suggestions, we introduce an idea which the other person might like to consider. There are not under much pressure to accept our idea and can reject it or ignore it if they wish. A simple way to say this is to use ‘Could’. For instance, you could watch TV in English if you want to improve your English.

The middle level is advice. When we give advice, we are presenting ourselves – or the other person sees us – as somebody with some knowledge or experience about the problem. They come to us because they value our opinion and think we can help them. A simple way to say this is ‘You should find an English teacher to help you improve your English’

The highest level is when we offer our idea or opinion because it is necessary and vital that the  other person listens to us. In other words, our opinion is something that they really need to know. A simple way to say this is ‘You must speak more if you want to improve your English’.

One difficulty we have is deciding what level of advice we should give. Men, in particular, have this problem. We often give the highest level of advice even when the other person doesn’t ask for our help.

So, in the next 3 podcasts, I’m going to look at the 3 levels of advice.

Let’s look at making suggestions first. This is lower-level advice when the problem somebody has isn’t so serious and they are not desperate for our help. When we brainstorm ideas, think of possible solutions to this problem, we often use these phrases.

I was having a drink with some Spanish friends on Friday and one of them mentioned that she would like to improve her listening in English. She doesn’t need to pass a listening exam and doesn’t need to understand English in her job. So, it’s not something she needs, it’s just something she’d like.

Here are some suggestions I made:

You could start listening to English-language radio while you’re doing the housework.

How about listening to the British English Coach podcast every day?

Have you thought about buying an Audio Course in English?

Have you considered watching films in English with subtitles in your language?

It might actually be a good idea to try reading subtitles in English too.

What do you think about finding a podcast in English about something that interests you?

Have you tried going to a language exchange night and meeting some English speakers to practise with?

Let’s review the phrases. I will use the verb ‘do’ but you can obviously use any verb you like.

You could start or try doing something.

How about doing something?

Have you thought about doing something?

Have you considered doing something?

It might be a good idea to do something?

What do you think about doing something?

Have you tried doing something?

The great thing about these phrases is that you do not put any pressure on the person you are speaking to. Because they are only suggestions, you are letting them decide to follow your advice or forget it. No pressure and no stress for you or your conversational partner.

As I said, these phrases are great for brainstorming because the person who receives the suggestion does not have to assess it or evaluate it. They can even say ‘Good idea’ and then forget it and you won’t be offended.

Please tune in (which means listen to) the next podcast in which I’ll discuss phrases we use to give advice (level 2 ).

2 thoughts on “How to make suggestions in English

  1. Dear Mr Gates, I am from Brazil and I listen every day your podcast and help me to improve my english ( that is not very good). I don’t have words to say thanks. Thank you for help thousands of people. God bless you!


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