Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever asked for an extension to a deadline at work?

At work we often need more time to make a deadline.

Listen in today and learn how to say you need more time to finish a project or task at work in English.

Deadlines at work

Michelle asks Lindsay if she has ever asked for an extension on a project.

Lindsay responds that she often has to give herself more time since she is now her own boss.

Having to ask your boss to move a deadline can be nerve-wracking.

It’s important to have the right vocabulary in case something happens and you need more time to finish a project or task.

Lindsay and Michelle share many insights and tips to help you thrive in the workplace on the Business English podcast.

You can listen to episode BE 248: Have You Already Made this Common Business English Mistake? to stay away from common English mistakes in the workplace.

Asking for an extension

How do you ask your boss to move a deadline?

At times, unexpected complications arise that may throw off your work timeline.

When this happens, you need to make an adjustment to deadlines.

Today we share a formula for constructing this conversation.

Step #1: Introduce or acknowledge the deadline

The key is to not wait until the last minute to make or request a change.

It will create trouble if you ask for an extension five minutes before the actual deadline.

It’s important to give people as much notice as possible.

You don’t want to create problems for other team members when you move a deadline.

It is optimal to start this conversation early and acknowledge you know the deadline.

Here are some sample introductions:

  • I know the project is due next week.
  • The deadline for the charts is Tuesday.

Step #2: Explain what’s happening

The next step is to share why you’re not going to meet the deadline.

You can share the reason for delay or what has come up that will prevent you from finishing your work on time.

Here are some sample sentences to share your reason:

  • Unfortunately I am running a little behind because not all the data was available.
  • There’s a small delay due to a family emergency.

Step #3: Ask for the deadline change

To get to your point, you can now ask if you can move the deadline.

As part of asking the change, you should also apologize for the inconvenience caused for making this change.

Then you should thank them for accommodating your request.

Here are samples for how you can ask:

  • Would it be possible to get an extension?
  • Is there any way I could get this to you by Monday?

Reason for deadline changes

Michelle asks Lindsay what is a reasonable reason to ask for a deadline extension.

Lindsays says it should be something that is unexpected and out of your control like a death in your family, or a medical emergency.

If it’s just something due to poor planning, it’s not acceptable.

You shouldn’t make a habit of asking for extensions because you didn’t get to plan ahead.

If you were able to prevent the roadblock from happening but didn’t you could lose trust.

An example of this is going on vacation without finishing work ahead of time.


Here is a quick roleplay from Michelle and Lindsay on how to start the conversation about moving a deadline at work.

In this scenario, Lindsay is asking for an extension from her colleague, Michelle.

Lindsay: Hi Michelle
Michelle: Hi Lindsay. What’s going on?
Lindsay: Well I wanted to ask you something. I know the presentation is due Friday. Unfortunately I am running a little behind because I was finishing up the graphs.
Michelle: Ohh i see.
Lindsay: Yes- is there any way I could get it done and into you by Monday?
Michelle: uhhh yeah that’s fine.
Lindsay: Oh thank you! I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
Michelle: No really it’s no issue. Thanks for asking.
Lindsay: Thanks for understanding!


Asking for a deadline extension is one of many crucial and difficult conversations had in the workplace.

It may be uncomfortable, but be honest and direct if you need a deadline extension and do it as seldom as possible.

It’s best to have the conversation in a way that is very clear.

Share your intent to complete your work but clearly express that you need more time to finish.

Getting your point across clearly to a superior is important.

Take note of the tips shared by Lindsay and Michelle to ask for a deadline extension in English.

This way you can do it while maintaining trust and without breaking any connections.

What are other difficult conversations you have had at work?

Share an example in the comments below.

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