San Gabriel High School

How to be polite: tips for students

Having manners and being polite is important on a daily basis. San Gabriel High School students are typically polite, yet sometimes use awkward phrases while addressing teachers. Here are some common mistakes English teachers Melissa Bishop-Magallanes, Alicia Canzano, Breanna Hunt and Sabrina Morales have noticed in students’ speech.


Incorrect Correct Explanation
Can I use the  restroom?” May I use the restroom?” This phrase is the most common mistake students make. Since “can” stands for the ability to do something, “can I” does not work here. It is not correct to ask someone for permission using “can” instead of “may.” “May” is associated with asking for permission, rather than the ability to do an activity.
“I could of done my homework last night.” “I could have done my homework last night.” This is a common mistake because the pronunciation of “have” quickly rolls off the tongue when said as “could’ve.” The reason why it is correct to say “could have” is because it talks about things in the past that are are not happening at that moment.
“I’m doing good.” “I’m doing well.” This mistake is made when someone is asked how they are doing, and they answer “good,” which is incorrect. “Good” is an adjective and cannot be used to modify a verb, which is “doing” in this case.
May you please write me a recommendation letter?” Will you please write me a recommendation letter?” “Will you” is the correct phrase to say because you are asking the teacher to do the actual action, not permission for yourself. “Will is grammatically correct and much more clear than “may you.”
Calling a female teacher by “Miss You can call the teacher “Mrs.”
If she is married; “Miss” if she is unmarried;  “Ms.” applies to both married and unmarried females.
Some female teachers are not using their married name and prefer “Miss” or “Ms.”  “Miss” means the teacher is not married. “Ms.” applies to a teacher who is married or unmarried and depends on what the teacher prefers to be called. “Mrs.” means that the teacher is married. Ask your teacher what her preference is.


Another common mistake that students make is not giving their teacher a “thank you” card when the teacher does something extra for the student, such as tutoring or writing recommendation letters. Some teachers are willing to use their free time to tutor students if they require help; they sacrifice their lunch and spend extra hours after school doing so. Teachers may appreciate receiving a “thank you” card or note because it shows that the student recognizes the extra effort and time the teacher is putting in. Here’s an example:


Dear (Your Teacher’s Name),
Thank you for your taking the time to help me during lunch. Your explanation of the math problems really helped me understand them and I will do my best on next the test. I appreciate your patience and expertise. Thank you for being a great teacher!
Sincerely,(Your Name)