We all need some structure in our work lives, but when we go from meeting to meeting in Jakarta we have to take into account the traffic before agreeing a time to meet someone. One of my pet peeves is being late for a business meeting and so I like o give myself a bit of extra time when arranging an appointment. Here is an example conversation of two native speakers arranging an appointment, it is not overly formal but uses some formal structures:

  • Speaker 1 – “Hello, can I speak to Brian Hibberd, please?”
  • Speaker 2 – “I’m afraid he’s in a meeting until lunchtime. Can I take a message?”
  • Speaker 1 – “Well, I’d like to arrange an appointment to see him, please.”
  • Speaker 2 – “Could you hold on for a minute, Mr Jefferson. I’ll just look in the diary. So when’s convenient for you?”

Using the words shall, would and can the speaker suggests politely what to do rather than tell the listener what they would like.

Could I take a message? – Implies that the decision is up to the other person.
I will take a message. – This is not a question and doesn’t give the other person the opportunity to say no.

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