We live in a space where we often need help. Whether it’s from our family, friends, teachers, or our phones, we sometimes need assistance for different reasons. But when you offer someone help, should you use the singular “I” or the plural “we”?
It is correct to say, “How can we help you?” under certain conditions. The sentence is an offer of assistance to someone else and requires a response. You can use “How can we help you?” when someone looks confused or lost. It is an interrogative sentence someone from an organization or a group asks their customers.
To find out about the specific scenarios where you can use “How can we help you?” keep reading.
What Does “How Can We Help You” Mean?
“How can we help you?” is a question you ask someone to find out if they require assistance and what kind of assistance you can provide.
The word “how” asks for specific information about the method you can use to assist someone. This is in contrast to “May we help you?” which asks for permission to help.
Another distinct word is the plural pronoun “we” instead of “I.” This changes the sentence’s meaning because it specifies that more than one person is offering assistance. This can be a group of people or you speaking on behalf of an organization (source).
The distinctive part of “How can we help you?” is that it does not have to come from multiple people. You can still use the question as an individual, but there is a sense that you are speaking for a group.
How Do You Use “How Can We Help You”?
You use “How can we help you?” to ask someone how you can provide assistance. It is a standalone question that works in a context where you, as the speaker, are in a position to help someone.
For example, the question will be familiar if you work in customer service. You can use it when approached by a customer or when someone calls your call center to ask for assistance.
To some degree, the question also works as an opening statement to start the conversation. If a customer approaches you, you would say something like “Hello, how can we help you?” to greet them and get straight to the primary purpose of the conversation.
By adding additional information at the end of the sentence, you can be more specific about what you would offer them help with. You can also add time markers like “today” or “right now.”
- How can we help you with your query?
- How can we help you with this refund?
- How can we help you this afternoon?
When you use it, you should also speak on behalf of a group of people or an organization, hence the correct usage of “we.” Using the “we” pronoun is not grammatically accurate when you are speaking for yourself.
When Can You Use “How Can We Help You”?
You should often use “How can we help you?” in a customer-service setting. This is because you are most likely to use the plural “we” pronoun as a representative of the business.
“How can we help you?” is a part of a conversation, and it can stand alone without any additional information. Depending on the context, it can appear at any point in a conversation.
- “Hi, how can we help you?” “I’m looking for the dairy section.”
- “This is great. How else can we help you?” “Could you please have a look at this?”
- “Thank you for this.” “Is there any other way we can help you?”
As part of a conversation and a question, it requires a response. There are several ways you can respond to it.
How Do You Answer “How Can We Help You”?
There are two ways you can answer, “How can we help you?” You can either agree to the assistance and provide further information or say that you do not need assistance.
If you need assistance, you can specify what you need help with. For example, if you are at a store asking for a refund, you may say something like, “You can help me with processing this return, please.”
If you would like to be even more polite, you can use a question to respond instead: “Would you mind showing me where the shoes are?”
If you do not require any help, you can politely decline the offer by saying, “Thanks, I’m okay.” or “Thanks, I don’t need any help.” You do not have to explain why you do not require assistance since the request is supposed to be polite.
If someone is offering to help you, it is important that you listen because they are in a position to help you. If you are in a store, the assistant would know where everything is. This is also true in other scenarios, as most people do not offer help unless they have something to offer.
Using “How Can We Help You” in a Full Sentence
You can use “How can I help you?” as a complete sentence. You can use extra information to contextualize what kind of assistance you are offering. But the question is grammatically accurate to use as it is.
As a sentence, you use the term as part of a conversation.
- Hello, welcome to our store. How can we help you?
- How can we help you today?
- How can we help you get the best insurance rates?
As a polite question, people expect it in a customer-service-facing job. If you are just an individual asking someone if they need help, you will use the singular “I” instead of “we.” That is the only difference in the phrasing.
When you offer help as an individual, the type of help you offer will also be different. You can offer help with emotional issues or use more informal and colloquial language.
- How can I help you?
- How can I help you to get this done?
- Tell me, how can I help you through this breakup?
If you want to learn more about a phrase we often use in business contexts, check out Is It Correct to Say “At Your Earliest Convenience”?
When Not to Use “How Can We Help You”
There are several scenarios where the question “How can we help you?” is inappropriate. Firstly, if you are speaking as yourself, the plural “we” is not technically incorrect but confusing. Secondly, when you are not truly offering any assistance.
“We” is technically a personal pronoun, but there are only specific scenarios where you can use it (source).
You may have heard of the royal “we,” where royalty may use “we” as a pronoun instead of “I.” For example, saying, “We are very much pleased” instead of “I am very pleased.” This is because the royal person is a representative of the monarchy.
Therefore, to avoid confusion, only use “we” when referring to yourself and others or referring to yourself as part of a group.
What Can You Use Instead of “How Can We Help You”?
There are several phrases that have a similar meaning to “How can we help you?” “Help” is the easiest word to find synonyms for, so you can use “How can we assist?” or “How can we be of service?
The above is more of a direct translation, along with other colloquial terms like “How can we help out?” or “Do you need a hand?”
Various phrases are entirely different but have the same meaning. Some of them are also a way of asking permission, while others ask for the specific way you can assist.
- May I do something to help?
- Would you like me to do something for you?
- Can I assist you in any way?
There are other phrases that offer help without really providing an option to reject it, but of course, you can refuse the help even if it is not a question.
- Let me do something to help.
- I’d be glad to give you a hand.
- Let me assist you.
In all the above examples, they are in the first person. To use the plural pronouns, change all the “I”s to “we” and all the “me”s to “us’s.” For example, “Let me do something to help” would become “Let us do something to help.”
Polite questions are a normal part of English communication. You use polite questions to ask for specific information, but the phrasing of the question comes across as respectful and courteous.
For example, imagine that you need to know the time. You approach someone and say, “Tell me the time.” This phrasing comes across as impolite and demanding. Instead, if you use “Would you mind telling me the time, please?” you are far more likely to get a positive response.
There are several ways to ask polite questions. Firstly, you can include “please.” Secondly, you can use “excuse me” or “pardon me” before you ask the question to show you understand that you are interrupting them (source).
This article is written for strategiesforparents.com.
When it comes to polite questions, providing the option to say “Yes” or “No” is always ideal. You do not want someone to feel obligated to listen or assist. Hence, “How can we help you?” is a polite question, as you have the option to reject the offer of assistance.
“How can we help you?” is a polite question that no one should have an issue responding to. There are several ways to phrase it, but it is an ideal question within a customer-facing work environment and one you can use frequently.