English Usage Topics > Suggestions
There are many ways of suggesting a course of action to someone.
You can say 'You could...'.
You could phone her and ask.
'Well, what shall we do?' – 'You could try Ebury Street.'
You can also use 'How about...?' or 'What about...?', followed by an -ing form.
How about taking him outside to have a game?
What about becoming an actor?
You can also use 'How about...?' or 'What about...?' with a noun phrase, to suggest that someone has a drink or some food, usually with you, or to suggest an arrangement.
How about a pizza?
What about a drink?
'I'll explain when I see you.' – 'When will that be?' – 'How about after work?'
A more indirect way of suggesting a course of action is to use 'Have you thought of...?', followed by an -ing form.
Have you thought of asking what's wrong with Henry?
A firmer way of making a suggestion is to say 'Couldn't you...?', 'Can't you...?', or 'Why not...?'
Couldn't you get a job in one of the smaller colleges around here?
Can't you just tell him?
Why not write to her?
You can also use 'Try...', followed by an -ing form or a noun phrase.
Try advertising in the local papers.
Try a little methylated spirit.
A very firm way of making a suggestion is to say 'I suggest you...'.
I suggest you leave this to me.
If you want to suggest persuasively but gently that someone does something, you can say 'Why don't you...?'
Why don't you think about it and decide later?
Why don't you go to bed?
Advising someone (for other ways of saying firmly what course of action someone should take)
Less firm suggestions
If you do not feel strongly about what you are suggesting, but cannot think of anything better that the other person might do, you can say 'You might as well...' or 'You may as well...'.
You might as well drive back by yourself.
You may as well go home and come back in the morning.
More formal suggestions
More formal ways of making suggestions are expressions like 'You might like to...' and 'It might be a good idea to...'.
Alternatively, you might like to consider discussing your insurance problems with your bank manager.
You might consider moving to a smaller house.
You might want to have a separate heading for each point.
It might be a good idea to rest on alternate days between running.
Suggesting doing something together
There are several ways of making a suggestion about what you and someone else might do.
If you want to make a firm suggestion which you think the other person will agree with, you say 'Let's...'.
Come on, let's go.
Let's be practical. How can we help?
You can make the suggestion seem persuasive rather than firm and forceful by adding the tag shall we?
Let's discuss this later, shall we?
Let's meet at my office at noon, shall we?
For a negative suggestion, you say 'Let's not...'.
Let's not talk here.
We have twenty-four hours. Let's not panic.
Let's not go jumping to conclusions.
Speakers of American English sometimes say 'Let's don't...' instead of 'Let's not...' in informal speech.
Let's don't talk about it.
Another way of making a firm suggestion is to say 'We'll...'.
We'll talk later, Paula.
'What do you want to do with Ben's boat?' – 'We'll leave it here till tomorrow.'
Again, you can make the suggestion persuasive rather than forceful by adding the tag shall we?
We'll leave somebody else to clear up the mess, shall we?
All right, we'll change things around a bit now, shall we?
Another firm way of suggesting is to say 'I suggest we...'.
I suggest we discuss this elsewhere.
I suggest we go to the hospital right away.
Another way of making a suggestion is to say 'Shall we...?' You can make a suggestion like this sound firm or less firm by altering your tone of voice.
Shall we go and see a film?
Shall we make a start?
Shall we sit down?
Less firm suggestions
When you want to make a suggestion without being too forceful, you use 'We could...'. You use this form of suggestion when the issue of what to do has already been raised.
I did ask you to have dinner with me. We could discuss it then.
'I'm tired.' – 'Too tired for a walk, even? We could go to see a movie instead.'
You can also make a non-forceful suggestion in an indirect way, using 'I thought we...' or 'I wonder if we...' and a modal.
I thought we might have some lunch.
In the meantime, I wonder if we can just turn our attention to something you mentioned a little earlier.
I wonder whether we could have a little talk, after the meeting.
If you are unenthusiastic about your own suggestion, but cannot think of a better course of action, you say 'We might as well...'.
We might as well go in.
We might as well go home.
Very firm suggestions
If you want to make a very firm and forceful suggestion, which you feel is very important, you say 'We must...'. In American English, 'We've got to...' or 'We have to...' are more common with this meaning.
We must be careful.
We've got to go, now!
We have to hurry.
Suggestions about what would be best
When you are suggesting doing something that you think is the sensible thing to do, you say 'We ought to...' or 'We'd better...'. People often soften this form of suggestion by saying I think or I suppose first, or adding the tag oughtn't we? or hadn't we?
We ought to tell Dad.
Come on, we'd better try and find somebody.
I think we'd better leave.
I suppose we'd better finish this later.
We ought to order, oughtn't we?
We'd better get going, hadn't we?
'I think we should...' is also used.
I think we should go back.
I think we should change the subject.
If you are not sure that your suggestion will be accepted without argument, you say 'Shouldn't we...?' or 'Oughtn't we to...?'. Note that in American English, 'Oughtn't we...' is followed by an infinitive without to.
Shouldn't we have supper first?
Shouldn't we be on our way?
Oughtn't we to phone for the police?
You can also say 'Don't you think we should...?' or 'Don't you think we'd better...?'
Don't you think we'd better wait and see what he says?
Replying to a suggestion
The usual way of replying to a suggestion that you agree with is to say 'All right' or 'OK'. You can also say something like 'Good idea' or 'That's a good idea'.
'Let's not do that. Let's play cards instead.' – 'That's all right with me.'
'Try up there.' – 'OK.'
'Let's sit down for a while.' – 'Good idea.'
You can reply 'Yes, I could' to a suggestion starting with 'You could'.
'You could get a job over there.' – 'Oh yes, I could do that, couldn't I?'
A more casual way of replying is to say 'Why not?'
'Shall we take a walk?' – 'Why not?'
People also sometimes say 'Fine' or 'That's fine by me' when replying to a suggestion about doing something together. If they are very enthusiastic, they say 'Great'.
'What about Tuesday?' – 'Fine.'
If you do not agree with the suggestion, you can say 'I don't think that's a good idea', 'No, I can't', or 'No, I couldn't'.
'You could ask her.' – 'I don't think that's a very good idea.'
'Well, can you not make synthetic ones?' – 'We can't, no.'
You can also give a reason for not accepting the suggestion.
'I'll ring her up when I go out to lunch.' – 'Why not do it here and save money?' – 'I like my calls private.'
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