A request is a directive speech act whose illocutionary purpose is to get the hearer to do something in circumstances in which it is not obvious that he/she will perform the action in the normal course of events (Searle 1969). By initiating a request, the speaker believes that the hearer is able to perform an action.


The structure of a request may consist of two parts: the head act (the actual request) and modifications to the request (external or internal).

Request strategies are divided into three types according to the level of inference (on the part of the hearer) needed to understand the utterance as a request. The three types of requests include:
  1. direct requests
  2. conventionally-indirect strategies (CI), and
  3. non-conventionally indirect (NCI) strategies (hints)

Direct and conventionally-indirect requests comprise a continuum of different strategies. A list of the strategies that comprise each request type (direct, CI, and NCI) is provided below, followed by examples for each strategy.

The perspective of requests can be emphasized, either projecting toward the speaker (Can I borrow your notes?) or the hearer (Can you loan me your notes?). Since we must take into account many factors when we make requests (for example, the age, social distance, gender, and level of imposition), speakers often employ different strategies (linguistic and non-linguistic) to minimize the effects of our request on the other person. Examples of head acts and modifications, as well as interactional data among Mexican Spanish speakers, are presented below.

Requests across languages

In their Cross-Cultural Realization Project (CCSARP), Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) described various request strategies they observed among speakers from seven different countries ( USA , Australia , England , Canada , Denmark , Germany , Israel ).

Other researchers have focused on the realization patterns of requests in various languages. Some of these include: British English (Márquez Reiter 2000), French (Warga 2004), German (Shauer 2006; Warga 2004), Greek and British English (Sifianou 1992), Indonesian (Hassall 2003), Irish English (Barron 2003, 2006), and Polish (Wierbzicka, 2003), among others.

With regard to Spanish, requests have been examined in various regions of the Spanish-speaking world. These include: Colombian Spanish (Delgado 1994; Escamilla et al. 2004; Méndez-Vallejo 2006), Cuban Spanish (Ruiková 1998), Ecuadorian and Peninsular Spanish (Placencia 1998), Mexican Spanish (Félix-Brasdefer 2005), Uruguayan and Peninsular Spanish (Márquez Reiter 2000, 2002), and Venezuelan Spanish (García 1989).

Listen to Request-Response Interactions