20 Keywords for Giving Advice and Making Suggestions


giving advice

Advice can be such an important aspect of life. Sometimes you need help and sometimes you need to help others. Everyone needs advice and suggestions even if you are the most powerful person in the world!

Presidents and Prime Ministers have teams set up just to advise them about what they should do or what they could be doing better. So never be scared of advice.

We are going to give you some advice about giving advice and making suggestions. Let’s get started!

Use a question

It’s important to remember that sometimes people will not want to hear advice, or they may require it in a delicate manner rather than being told or ordered. You can do this by making it into a question.

Here are some common phrases to do just that:

May I suggest

A: I am so frustrated with this book I can’t get anywhere near to the end of it and I have to finish it by Wednesday!

B: May I suggest that you set yourself a target and try to read a certain amount of pages per day until you reach your target?

If I may

A: I just don’t know what to do anymore I’m fed up with my boyfriend, he never calls me anymore. He doesn’t care about me.

B: If I may, when was the last time you called him?

Couldn’t you

A: I’m panicking, I need to get to London on Wednesday to meet up with my friends. They are all driving there but I don’t have a car!

B: Couldn’t you just get a lift with one of them?

Would you consider

A: I don’t know what to do. I keep eating and eating but I want to lose weight! The problem is I am always so hungry!

B: Would you consider going to the doctor and getting some medical help?

Wouldn’t it be better

A: I don’t know whether I should take this new job or stay with my current one. It’s a big opportunity for me but it would mean I would need to move house. I don’t know what I want.

B: Wouldn’t it be better if you take some time to see how you feel, rather than make a decision right now?

Shouldn’t you

A: I’m worried, my son hasn’t called me all morning. He went to a party last night and stayed the night. I want to know he is okay.

B: Shouldn’t you give him a few more hours to call you? It’s still early in the morning.

Will you

A: I want to improve my fitness but the gym is so expensive! How can I get fit if I don’t have money?

B: Will you just relax? You can go for a run outside any time you want! The best part os that it’s free.

These are very polite ways to give advice and can be used in formal situations as well as informal ones. They might be good ways to approach giving advice to someone that you do not know very well.

They could also be useful for giving advice to someone who doesn’t like to be advised or told what to do. The best part is, if they reject your advice, you can say I was only asking.

More for you:
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Polite Expressions in English: Words, Phrases and Questions to be Kind
Difference Between MAY, MIGHT, MAY HAVE And MIGHT HAVE!

Use an order

Using an order can sometimes cut through a problem like a knife through butter. They can make things much simpler rather than asking questions and saying things you don’t really mean. Be careful though, some people might not like being told what to do!

You should

A: What do I do? I want to have more time off work but I know that the money at this job is fantastic.

B: You should think about what is important to you. Life is short!

You have to/don’t have to

A: I might not go out tonight, I’m not ready and I am really tired.

B: You have to go out! We are going to have such a good time!

A: Painting is so dumb, I don’t know why I bother even trying. I suck at it!

B: You don’t have to be the best artist in the world to enjoy painting! Use it to learn!

You must/mustn’t

A: I have a huge exam tomorrow, I don’t know if I have studied enough and I’m worried I might fail!

B: The most important thing is to be focused. You must be focused otherwise you have no chance of succeeding.

A: I should have scored today, I had a really good chance and I messed it up.

B: You mustn’t keep thinking about it! Just say that next time you will score that chance.

You had better

A: Mum, I don’t want to go to school today!

B: You had better get dressed and get in the car right now. You’re not staying home.

You have got to/haven’t got to

A: I don’t know if I want to go to university, I don’t want to leave home and leave my friends.

B: You have got to think of the future! You will make new friends and your other friends will be here waiting for you to visit!

A: I want to go to the party but I am worried that Johnny might be there. I don’t want to see him.

B: Well, even if you do see him, you haven’t got to speak to him! Just go!

Think about it

A: This job would be great pay, but I really like my boss that I have now.

B: Really? Think about it! Think of what you could do with all that extra cash!

You have to

A: Everything is going wrong, I don’t know what to do and I’m just fed up with life.

B: You have to calm down! Things aren’t that bad!

Use an order if you are sure and you should probably reserve orders for friends and family. If you tell someone you don’t know very well what they should do then they may get offended even if you are trying to help!

Sometimes the truth hurts and people don’t want to hear it!

More for you:
Advice vs Advise: pronunciation, meaning, examples, related words.

Use an idiom

This is a really fun and creative way to give advice. Using an idiom can add a dimension to the conversation that didn’t exist before. It can take the awkwardness away from things and will also mean that you aren’t directly telling somebody what they should and shouldn’t do.

Take a second

This is an idiom that can be used to make people slow down and think about the situation. The expression denotes that you are taking a second and so you will have that time to yourself to think and make a clear-minded decision.

An example would be:

Jonas: I’ve got so much to do and I don’t know where to start. I have homework, I have to babysit and then I have to go to the gym! How can I do all of this?

Tim: Jonas, take a second and stop freaking out. Let’s try to make a schedule that you can follow.

Jonas: Yeah you’re right, I need to calm down. Thanks, Tim.

Can I add my two cents

This is a really fun phrase to use and you are effectively asking for permission to give advice and enter the conversation. As I have already mentioned, there are some people that do not enjoy receiving advice and don’t want to be told what to do. If they invite you to enter the conversation, however, then you are free to say whatever you want to them!

The phrase comes from poker. When you go around the table and are ready to start a game, everyone needs to pay into the game to be allowed to play. So, you add your two cents to have a stake in the game. In this case you are paying to have a stake in the conversation. (Although you don’t actually have to pay!)


Hamid: This is ridiculous, I’ve been waiting half an hour and still no call from my boss. How am I supposed to know when I need to get to work? It’s so rude!

Priya: Hamid, can I add my two cents?

Hamid: Sure, Priya.

Priya: Well, maybe your boss is just busy! They have said that they will call you back and I’m sure they will. Just wait a little bit and if they don’t call now, you can call them back later.

Hamid: I suppose you’re right.

Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched

This is a really funny phrase and it is used to tell someone not to be complacent or cocky.

Somebody may be really excited about an opportunity that has come their way or will and they may get carried away. This is a way to keep them grounded and concentrated on what they have to do next.

The phrase very literally comes from hatching chickens. Sometimes, eggs may not hatch properly and even if you start out with 10 eggs, maybe only 7 will hatch properly.

James: Ron, did I tell you? I’m starting a business that is going to change the world! I have already had great feedback from people who think it is a great idea! I’m going to be rich!

Ron: That’s great, James, but don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

One thing about this phrase is that you may seem very negative by saying this to someone! Make sure you are doing it with the best intentions. Don’t be too negative!

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

This is a cool phrase that comes from the hunting world of times gone by. In the past, people would use falcons to hunt animals that might be in the bush. The saying here is that the falcon is more valuable than the prey that is in the bush.

It is used in modern times to say that perhaps the current situation is better than gambling for a new situation whilst also taking the risk of losing everything. It’s a difficult one to explain so lets look at an example.


Graham: I have a dilemma, Pip, I am doing very well in my current job and I’m receiving a lot of phrase for my work, but I’m thinking about trying to get a job in a new company for even more money.

Pip: That’s a tough one, Graham. Have they made you an offer or is it just an idea?

Graham: No they haven’t, it’s just my idea, I think I could do it.

Pip: Well, I think that it’s always good to have ambition but if you leave this job now and you don’t get the other job then you might lose everything. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Graham: Yeah, maybe you’re right. I will give it some thought.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Don’t think too much about this one! It means literally what it says.

If you bite off more than you can chew it means that you have committed to doing too much and you should probably get rid of a few commitments to give you more time.

Check the example:

Kate: Hey, Wayne, I want your opinion. I’m thinking about taking another job so that I can have a bit more money to spend.

Wayne: Well, Kate, I know that being a nurse takes up a lot of your time right now. Do you think you have the spare time in your life for that?

Kate: Yeah, I don’t know really. All I know is I want some more money!

Wayne: Well, money isn’t all that matters, so just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

A really useful and simple phrase.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Think about the massive Roman empire that used to exist throughout the world and then think about how long that must’ve taken to build! It takes time, like most good things in life! So be patient with all your endeavours and try to build your own empire.

The example will help to explain this one:

Remy: Hey Tom, how’s it going?

Tom: Not too bad, Remy, I’ve just started a new business so I’m very busy at the moment.

Remy: Oh cool!

Tom: Yeah, it’s tough though, it’s still a very small business and I would like it to grow a bit quicker.

Remy: Well, take your time! Just remember. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

More for you:
112 Phrases for Saying Thank You in Any Situation
1000+ Most Popular English Idioms and Their Meanings
25 Email Templates for Business Communication

So now hopefully you have plenty of ways to give advice and help other people around you! If you have any questions or comments please do post in the comments section.

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