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Excuse Me, May I Have your Attention, Please?

QUESTION:
Mauro from Italy wants to know how to get the attention of a person or a group of people whom he doesn’t know, in both formal and informal situations.

ANSWER:
The simplest phrase to use is “excuse me” and this can be used with an individual or group and in most situations.

For example, if you want to ask directions from a stranger, you can say, “Excuse me, could you tell me where the university is?” If you are speaking to a group, whether you know them or not, you can say, “excuse me” or “excuse me, everyone.” If you are going to make an announcement to a group, you can say, “Excuse me, may I have your attention, please?” For instance, at the beginning of a play, you may say, “Excuse me, everyone. / Excuse me, may I have your attention, please? Would you all take your seats (sit down)?”

If you want to be very formal or you are speaking to a customer, you can use the terms “sir” for a man and “ma’am” (pronounced “mam”) for a woman; “miss” can be used for a girl or young woman. You can use “gentlemen” for a group of all men or “ladies” for a group of all women.

For example, if you’re waiting for a table in a restaurant, the hostess may say, “Ma’am, your table is ready now” or “Gentlemen, ladies, (or ladies and gentlemen) your table is ready now.” However, she is just as likely to say, “Excuse me, your table is ready now.” This would be perfectly acceptable.

So, using “excuse me” is a safe choice and considered polite in all of the situations I can think of.

I hope this is helpful.

~ Lucy

11 Responses to “Excuse Me, May I Have your Attention, Please?”

  1. Kaz Says:

    Hi,
    There was, possibly still exists, in Poland and perhaps somewhere else, a custom or informal way of getting attention of the rowdy (loud and noisy) company at the weeding or other merry event, by ringing with a tea spoon against an empty glass or wine-glass, usually before giving a toast.
    Here’s to all you!
    Kaz

  2. elcomandant Says:

    Hi Lucy, you are right, but you forget another one.

    There is another way to get attention without to say any word. I have seen in many Americans movies where John Wayne is drinking a whisky into the ‘Saloon’, the girls are dancing ‘CanCan’ next to the piano meanwhile the men are fighting and breaking the chairs against their heads and backs, then he pull out his gun and shoot just once.

    Infallible.

  3. Lena Says:

    so helpfull~~….

  4. ESLPodcast Google Group Says:

    Listen up!

    You also can use it.

  5. Elisângelo Says:

    Hi lucy,

    thanks a lot by the explanation about “getting attention from someone or a group of people”; though it seems very simple, once in a while we catch us ourself think about it what`s the best way to make it. Never the less if you find yourself merged into a noisy and uncontroled people, taking the way which kaz just sugested; it would be quite quite useful!!!

  6. Prinkle | India Says:

    I also guess using “excuse me” is a safe and polite way to get the attention of someone in all situations.
    Lucy, What would be the fun way to get the attention of your buddies or group of friends well known to you?

  7. Fred Says:

    T h a n k y o u v e r y m u c h

  8. Ari Fernando Ramos Says:

    Lucy
    Simple, clear and perfectly understood. Thanks a lot.

  9. emiliano Says:

    I like that “May I have your attention, please?”….nice, very nice. Also to say “Whould you all take your seats?”
    So polite, and so easy to understand, but for us so difficult to use because we are much more direct. If I have to say something to a group sure I would say….
    Please, a moment please, take your seats, if you like, and listen to me a moment, please.

    That way of asking it is so odd here, usually we do not ask if we have not the necesity of asking. It is different if we are asking for information, a street, a place, a favour, the hour or so on. Then, of course we could speak same way like you…..excuse me, could you tell me what time is it? or similar.

    When I was living near the sea, in Alicante, I had friendship with an englishwoman that didn’t speak spanish at all, so we (my wife and me) teached her some spanish and I have to told her not being so polite when she went shopping, or asked for goods, and so many things, as we spaniards don’t speak that super polite way she speaks. Doing that she never have the attention of people. She was always the last in the shops or people didn’t care about her demands.
    She used to said: (in Spanish of course) May I have this, or that? ……no, I said to her….you have to say: Please, I want this or that, without asking…..you politely demand for the things you want, or ask directly and politely about everything, but not speaking as an englishwoman try to be spanishwoman and people take care of your presence and demands.

    Indeed, lenguages are quite different also people using them. So, we spaniards may be rude for an english/american when he/she is speaking your lenguage.

    Thank you Lucy, I would try to change my mind if I’ll be there in future.

  10. Estephede Says:

    Hi Lucy,

    You are completly right and thanks a lot for the explanation, i am waiting for an another one.

  11. seeyi Says:

    Lucy,I have known that,but thank you for reminding that of me .It’s important.