In our day-to-day conversation, using “Would you mind…?” is a gentle way of asking for a favour and also a very polite way for asking a permission. By using “Would you mind…?”, it is very hard for your request to be denied because the politeness and delicateness of asking for something using “Would you mind…?” indicates so much respect for the person you’re asking from and would garner double your respect when they allow your request.
First and foremost though, let’s get the meaning of “Would you mind…?” correctly. In Bahasa Melayu, “Would you mind…?” means “Awak kisah tak…?”. For the lack of a more direct translation, “Would you mind…?” ‘s closest translation sounds a bit of the bahasa pasar we use in our daily Bahasa Melayu conversation. So, for the sake of ambiguity, I will also explain what “Would you mind…?” DOES NOT mean in Bahasa Melayu.
“Would you mind…?” is NOT:
1. “Awak peduli tak…?”
2. “Bolehkah awak…?”
3. “Benarkan saya…?”
5. “Izinkan saya…?”
Now that we have what “Would you mind…?” does not mean out of the way, let’s see how we can use “Would you mind…?” in our daily conversations correctly in asking for a permission and in asking for a favour.
In asking for a permission, the formula to use is as such:
WOULD YOU MIND IF I [VERB IN PAST TENSE] [PHRASE]
EXAMPLE 1: WOULD YOU MIND IF I OPENED THE WINDOW?
In this example, we are asking for permission from a person to open a window. Notice the delicateness in the way the question is posed, implying that we care for the comfort of the person in case we open the window. That is why I mentioned above that using “Would you mind…?” is one of the best ways to elicit a positive response for yourself.
To elaborate, “Would you mind if I opened the window?” translates as “Awak kisah tak sekiranya saya buka tingkap?”. The question is posed in the sense that the asker is putting the other person’s interest above his/hers.
EXAMPLE 2. WOULD YOU MIND IF I SAT NEXT TO YOU?
In this example, we are asking for permission from a person to sit next to him/her. Notice the charm embedded under the tone of the question, implying that we want the person to be comfortable if we sat next to them. Although nobody would actually say they mind that you sat next to them, the least they could respond is by saying the seats were taken.
For further understanding, we must realise that “Would you mind if sat next to you?” means “Awak kisah tak sekiranya saya duduk sebelah awak?” and not “Bolehkah saya duduk sebelah awak?” The kind of answer that you would want to here is “No, I don’t mind.” In Bahasa Melayu, that would mean, “Tak, saya tak kisah.”
EXAMPLE 3. WOULD YOU MIND IF I PLACED THESE PAPERS HERE FOR AWHILE?
In this example, we are asking for a permission to put some papers at a person’s place for a moment. Don’t you think that that is a very polite way to ask instead of the usual, “Can I put this here for awhile?” Notice how “Would you mind…?” takes into account the other person’s concern. Scratch that, I would say that using “Would you mind…?” takes in account the other person’s delight in helping you. And isn’t that the kind of niceties we need in this harsh world?
In Bahasa Melayu, “Would you mind if I placed these papers here for awhile?” means “Awak kisah tak sekiranya saya letak kertas-kertas di sini sebentar?”. Notice how the question works to your favour as your question is directed to the person’s feelings and not really about the space you want to place your papers.
Now, I will move on with some examples on using “Would you mind…?” as a request. In asking for a request, the formula would be:
WOULD YOU MIND IF I [VERB]+ING [PHRASE]
EXAMPLE 4. WOULD YOU MIND OPENING THE WINDOW?
In this example, we are requesting for the person’s help to open the window. Notice how the question asks for the person’s opinion rather than simply stating a direction to open the window. The use of “Would you mind…?” in this request does not imply that you are blindly assuming the person would give a positive response and yet, there is a tone to the question that notes both parties agree that it is not hassle.
In Bahasa Melayu, “Would you mind opening the window?” means “Awak kisah tak bukakan tingkap itu?”. Do note that it does not mean “Bolehkah awak buka tingkap itu?” or “Awak boleh tolong saya bukakan tingkap itu?”. That’s because in the phrase “Would you mind…?” our concern lies on the person’s comfort and NOT the willingness of the person.
EXAMPLE 5. WOULD YOU MIND SITTING NEXT TO ME?
In this example, we are requesting for a person to sit beside us. In this situation, we are probably in need of some space and need a person to sit next us. In this case, we are asking if the person would be okay with sitting next to us rather than simply pointing out that there is available space next to us.
In Bahasa Melayu, “Would you mind sitting next to me?” has the same effect of “Sudi duduk di sebelah saya?”. Do note that is does not carry the same effect of “Boleh awak duduk di sebelah saya?”. In asking for a request using “Would you mind…?”, there is a presumption that a person will do respond to the favour in kind out of free will.
EXAMPLE 6. WOULD YOU MIND PLACING THE PAPERS HERE FOR AWHILE?
In this example, we are requesting the person to put the papers down. And yet, it should be noticed that under the same breath, we are concerned if the person is okay with leaving the papers there. The politeness in unassuming the person would obey to your directions is the beauty in asking for a request using “Would you mind…?”.
“Would you mind placing the papers here for awhile?” creates the same unassuming request when asked in Bahasa Melayu as, “Awak kisah tak tinggalkan kertas-kertas di sini dahulu?”. Notice how your request is drawn as a consent when using “Would you mind…?”.
I hope the explanation above would prompt more of us to use “Would you mind…?” more often when asking for a favour or permission because its delicateness not only makes it irrisistable, it also makes for the small dots of closeness in connection with those around us.
Now, I would like to hear from you. Have you ever needed something, a favour, a request from someone and realised that you only got what you wanted because of the way you phrased your sentences? I would be interested to know! Tell me in the Comments section or you may reply to me with your story if you are a subscriber to the Baini Mustafa Weekly Email. If you would like to be a subscriber to the Baini Mustafa Weekly Email, where I share stories, ideas and so much more, you may do so here.
Until then, stay safe and take advantage of English Language to convey your knowledge, ideas and message effectively. Because your thoughts inside of you is only as good when it’s outside, for the world to know.