How to interrupt politely (and not so politely) in English

Just shut up for a moment!
Just shut up for a moment!

A few years ago, I was observing a teacher giving his class. He was an experienced teacher and most of the students liked his lessons because he was fun and knowledgeable. However, he had one extremely bad habit: he talked too much during the class. He used to tell stories that turned into epics and sometimes he would enjoy telling the story so much that he forgot that the students were looking at him with blank looks on their faces!

On this particular day, he had been talking at (not to) his students for nearly 10 minutes, when I noticed one of the students waving their hand at him, trying to get his attention. But, he didn’t notice and continued speaking. The student coughed politely to get his attention. Nothing. He continued speaking. Finally, the student stood up and clapped his hands as loud as he could. At last, the teacher stopped talking and looked at him.

Teacher, your trousers!“, he shouted.

The teacher laughed nervously and turned bright red as he realised he had been standing in front of the students and had forgotten to do up the zip on his trousers!

Sometimes we need to interrupt. This can be because the speaker is talking too much or has gone off topic (talking about something that is not connected to the original conversation). Other times, we need to interrupt because we need to say something, express our opinion or make a suggestion.

The problem is that interrupting politely can be difficult in your first language and can be extremely difficult in your second language. Sometimes we interrupt and we sound rude. Sometimes we interrupt and we sound nervous. Sometimes we hesitate and the person continues speaking.

Practising how to interrupt is a useful activity for language learners here are some common phrases we can use to do so:

  • Can I just say something here?
  • Can I stop you there for a moment?
  • Can I just butt in for a second?
  • Can I just mention something?
  • Can I just add something here?
  • Do you mind if I come in here?
  • Before you move on, I’d like to say something.
  • Before you go on, I’d like to say something.
  • Excuse me for interrupting but……
  • Excuse me for butting in but…..
  • Sorry for interrupting but….
  • Just a moment, I’d like to….
  • If I could just come in here. I think….

Here is a video on interrupting politely taken from my MASTER POLITE ENGLISH Video course.

Remember, if interrupting politely doesn’t work, you can always interrupting rudely by using these phrases:

  • Will you let me speak?
  • Can’t you be quiet for a moment?
  • Will you just shut up for a minute, please?

So, next time, you feel the need to interrupt, try using one of the polite phrases above. If that doesn’t work, try being rude!

If you want to learn how to speak more politely in English, you might like my video course: MASTER POLITE ENGLISH. 

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