Being able to make suggestions in English is an important skill for good communication. Whether you’re having a friendly chat, working together on a project, or simply trying to give helpful advice, making suggestions can make your conversations better. This post is based on my experience and research so I’m sure it will be helpful for you.
You can make suggestions in English with a few key phrases.
1) Shall we – Shall we go out for dinner?
2) Why don’t we – Why don’t we order a pizza?
3) Let’s – Let’s get an extra-large pepperoni pizza!
4) How about/What about – How about double cheese?
Learn more than just what these expressions mean and their rules. (That’s not enough!) Keep reading for over 30 real natural examples that you can start using right away in your own English conversations. If you want to improve your communication skills and become better at suggesting things, keep reading!
Making suggestions in English
In English when we make a suggestion, we mention a possible action or share an idea we have for an activity (with another person or other people.)
|Suggestion phrases – How to use them
|How about/What about (used with a verb in its gerund form) *A gerund is verb + ing.
|How about ordering a pizza for dinner? What about getting Indian food instead?
|Shall we… /Why don’t we… /Let’s… (used with the infinitive form of the verb without to)
|Shall we leave now? *Infinitive To leave minus
|Why don’t we get a coffee? *Infinitive To get minus
|Let’s watch a movie tonight. *Infinitive To watch minus
How about …?/What about …?
We can use these phrases with a verb in its gerund form, this means the verb + -ing.
In the gerund form, the verb acts as a noun, it describes an action.
This 27-second video clip will explain how a verb becomes a gerund.
A: My math class is really hard this year.
B: What about asking your sister for help, she’s good at math.
How about starting a study group with your classmates?
Answering questions with suggestions
We also use these phrases with a noun, especially when you answer a question.
A: What would like for dinner tonight?
B: How about pizza? What about hamburgers?
(I am suggesting we have pizza or hamburgers for dinner tonight.)
How about is a useful suggestion for sharing your suggestion, but it can also be used for asking for information about somebody/something
- “We’re thinking about going camping this summer. How about you?” (What are your summer plans?)
- “That was one of the hardest tests I have ever written, I think I did okay though. How about you? Do you think you did well?”
What about can be used the same way.
- “I’ll travel across Asia this summer. What about you? Do you have any travel plans this year?”
- “I think I’m ready to go home, what about you guys?” (Are you also ready to go home?)
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How about?/What about? In the NEWS
For a basic guide to using the English question words HOW and WHAT you can check out my blog post here >> How to use HOW vs. WHAT (Learn FAST with 20 Real Examples & Video)
Shall we, Why don’t we, and Let’s use the infinitive form of the verb without to.
“Shall we study some natural English conversation today?”
to study (infinitive) – study (infinitive without to)
The Infinitive without TO explained
Shall we is used to suggest that you and the person or people you are talking with do something together, as a group.
- Shall we go to the cafe for some coffee after we’re done shopping?
Shall we eat something while we’re waiting?
Shall is a modal verb that is not used as often as it used to be. It is becoming a little old-fashioned but you will still hear it from time to time.
Did you know?
– Did you know that the past tense of SHALL is SHOULD?
I’m an English teacher, I should know that!
Learn more about the Modal Verbs Can Could May Might Must at my helpful post with a Quiz and a free PDF download.
As you see from this example it is also possible to suggest something by saying shall I?
|Are you getting hungry? Shall I start dinner now?
|Shall we take my car? It’s big enough for everyone to fit.
|Shall I call and find out or would you rather just go.
|It’s a lovely evening with beautiful music playing. Shall we dance?
I found 3 movies called Shall We Dance!
Shall We Dance (1937) A ballet dancer and a showgirl fake a marriage for publicity purposes, then fall in love. LINK
Shall We Dance (1996) is about a successful but unhappy Japanese accountant who finds the missing passion in his life when he begins to secretly take ballroom dance lessons. LINK
Shall We Dance (2004) is a romantic comedy where a bored, overworked Estate Lawyer, upon first sight of a beautiful instructor, signs up for ballroom dancing lessons. LINK (This is a remake of the Japanese movie.)
Why don’t we
Why don’t we is like asking “Do you think my idea sounds good?”
- Why don’t we practice using some natural English?
- “Why don’t we invite Derrick to our beach party tonight, I heard he’s in town.”
(This is like saying I think that inviting Derrick is a good idea. Don’t you agree?)
The subject “we” can change depending on who you are talking about.
Watch the 5-second video for an example of “Why don’t you…“
A: “I never have enough money.”
B: “Why don’t you get a part-time job?”
- “Why don’t I get some hamburgers for us on my way home from work tonight?”
- Why don’t you try to quit smoking?
- Why doesn’t Jeff try to quit smoking?
- Why doesn’t he try to quit smoking?
The phrase why not is another useful way to suggest something, this has the same feeling as Why don’t you…
- Why not ask Andrea on a date? I think she likes you!
- “It’s a nice day, why don’t you kids play outside?”
Let’s is my favorite suggestion phrase and it’s the phrase I hear and use the most.
- I’m bored, let’s go out!
This also has the feeling of doing something together with the person or people you are talking to.
- Let’s go to the fireworks display this weekend.
Let’s watch a movie tonight!
|It’s raining, let’s stay in and watch a movie tonight. I’ll make some popcorn!
|Let’s talk about this tomorrow.
|It’s still early, I don’t want to go home yet. Let’s go for a drink somewhere.
|Let’s wait before we do anything silly.
|This is an important decision, let’s think about it for a few days.
|Let’s wait until the rain stops before we go shopping. I don’t want to get wet.
Making suggestions examples
- The kitchen is a mess! How about we order pizza for dinner tonight?
- How about I call the new pizza place on South Street?
- How about going to see a movie later tonight?
- How about trying that new restaurant downtown for lunch?
- How about taking a weekend getaway to the countryside?
- How about attending a concert with me this weekend?
- How about starting a book club with our friends?
- What about going to the museum this weekend?
- What about trying that new recipe for dinner tonight?
- What about going for a hike in the mountains?
- What about visiting the beach for our next vacation?
- What about joining a dance class for some fun and exercise?
- Shall we take a walk in the park?
- Shall we try that new café for brunch?
- Shall we plan a day trip to the beach next month?
Why don’t we…?
- Why don’t we go shopping this afternoon?
- Why don’t we have a picnic in the park?
- Why don’t we try that new restaurant downtown?
- Why don’t you and I organize a game night with friends?
- Why don’t we take a road trip during the long weekend?
- Let’s go for a walk in the park.
- Let’s have a picnic by the river.
- Let’s grab a cup of coffee and catch up.
- Let’s plan a weekend getaway to the mountains.
- Let’s meet up at the library and study together.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is making suggestions important?
Making suggestions is an important way to share your ideas at your job or when you’re with friends. Making a contribution can make you feel more like you’re part of the group.
- How do I make polite suggestions?
Anytime your suggestion is in the form of a question it will be polite. You want to know what other people think of your suggestion. If you are not sure if your suggestion sounds impolite just make sure you’re using question words like what or why not when you share your ideas with a group.
Remember that the sound of your voice is very important for communication. If the tone of your voice is gentle and calm then your suggestion will not be taken in a rude or impolite way.
Check out these other fantastic English blog posts!