When we give an opinion we can do so directly, or we can ‘soften’ our opinion.
Patterns of politeness differ across languages. In English, if we want to avoid forcing our opinion onto another person, head off a negative reaction, or prevent our listener from losing face, we can use a number of different word classes, grammatical structures and functional expressions.
- lexical verbs: e.g. seem, tend, appear, indicate, suggest, suppose
- modal verbs: e.g. might, could, may
- modal nouns: e.g. possibility, assumption, tendency, estimation
- adjectival forms: e.g. probable,
- adverbial forms: e.g. quite, nearly, almost, apparently, somewhat
- question tags: e.g. isn’t it?
- phrases: e.g. it seems to me, it seems as if …, with respect, in a way, to some extent, if I’m not mistaken, I could be wrong, don’t you think that …, in my humble opinion
These forms can come at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a statement.