Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever had an embarrassing situation where you dropped or spilled something and other people saw?

On the other end of that, have you ever been in a situation where you saw somebody spill something or struggle a bit?

Did you feel unsure about what to do in this situation in English?

We’re going to help you with what to say and what to think about when you find yourself in this sometimes uncomfortable situation.

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Hi Lindsay, Michelle and Jessica,

Happy new year! Thank you always for the great great podcast!

I have a question. I’m wondering what I can say after asking someone if he/she needs help and they say they are okay. I know that this means that no help is needed.

Today, I was at work and saw a co-worker who had spilled his coffee and was cleaning the floor. The floor was almost clean, but I asked him anyway if he needed help. He said he was okay, and we chatted a little. After a little chat though, he was still wiping the floor.

I could not find any words to say or anything to do in that moment. In that scenario, I wanted to say something nice before walking away from him (even though I didn’t help him..). I suppose that I could have said something like “good luck with that”, but it sounds a bit cold to me.

I know that this type of scenario happens a lot, so I just want to be prepared for what I can say to make it right. I want it to be less awkward and show concern when possible.

I would be grateful if you could tell me some phrases that I could have used in that situation, in a future episode.

Thank you,

Mana (from Japan)

It’s All About The Delivery

This question is great because it’s all about personality.

This is completely about reading the situation.

In this scenario, it’s always really nice to think of the other person.

With the letter, it was nice that they were trying to figure out something to say when they saw the person struggling.

Saying something like “Good luck with that” is okay, but it all depends on how it’s said.

It kind of depends on the tone of voice and the way that you deliver the message.

That’s what will make it a good scenario or a bad one.

Some Helpful Things To Consider

There are a few things that you want to consider when you find yourself in this situation.

When it comes to a scenario where you are trying to help someone or help them to fix something, think through the following things.

  1. What is your relationship?
  2. If it is your boss you may want to insist on helping a little more. The relationship that you have with this person can greatly impact how you react and what you say.

You might say something like “Oh please, I insist!”

If they say no, you can say “Okay, well I’m sorry about the spill.” You don’t need to wish good luck or anything because that might be over the top and too much.

If it’s a friend, then you can be more casual– “Oh man, alright let me know if you need help!”

In any case, you could provide some extra napkins even if they didn’t ask–which takes us to question 2.

2. How serious is the situation? In the coffee situation, it sounds like it wasn’t too bad unless the person got a burn or something. In this case, good luck may be okay to say.

If somebody got burned or dropped all their papers on the floor, you may want to say something like “I’m so sorry! Please let me know if I can help.” You basically want to insist more because there is something negative that came out of the situation.

3. Does the person have a sense of humor about it? Believe it or not, this does matter in the big picture.

If yes, “good luck with that” said in a fun tone may be okay. You want to be sure that you know for sure that they have a good sense of humor, and then deliver it with a smile on your face.

If not, just say “I’m sorry” or even relate by saying “that happened to me yesterday. I’m sorry.” Then you’re not leaving anything up to chance and you’re sure not to offend them if they don’t have a sense of humor to handle any jokes.

In all cases, insisting may be the best option, particularly if you are in doubt.

Even if they say they don’t need help, offer a napkin, relate to them, and do something to make their day a little better.


This is so much about personality and reading the situation.

You now have three things to think about, and how they could change your answer.

Being easy to relate to and friendly in English is important-– and always think about how you would feel in their situation.

Most people say they don’t need help but want it and don’t want to be a bother, so don’t be afraid to help and insist.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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