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“You may be kindly aware …” so begins a notification about the forthcoming meeting of a professional body in India. What has kindly to do with being aware of the forthcoming meeting?

The usage illustrates a feature of Indian English arising from our feeling that one cannot be polite enough, the sentiment is admirable, but in this case, misplaced (or, shall we say, uncalled for?).

Our own languages exhibit a degree of politeness not found in English. One can easily verify this fact by looking at the mother tongue equivalents of such English expressions as :

• Please come in.

• Please sit down.

The speech of a person of a lower rank with a person of a higher rank will be full of self-deprecating phrases.

A reflex of this tendency is the unnecessary use of kindly in contexts like the one indicated above. You may be aware is just fine.

Another aspect worth noting in our use of English is the desire to avoid making straight, categorical statements. A plain assertion is felt to be rude. The circular referred to above continues: The conference would see participation by 2000 members ... the international conference would have a congregation of who is who in the ... profession.

Why would in these cases and not will?

I suggest this use of would also stems from our reluctance to be direct and forthright. Will is an expression of the intent of the speaker. Would is more tentative, hesitant and roundabout.

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