ABSTRACT  The profession's concern with learners' ability to use language “in context” is well established More recently, practitioners and researchers have expressed a growing interest in questions of students' sociopragmatic competence1 in the second language. This article reports on a three-step research project examining students' familiarity with, and ability to make, polite requests. First, a survey of introductory and intermediate textbooks suggested that students are inadequately trained in socially appropriate request forms. Next, two task-related instruments were completed by students to assess their ability to recognize degrees of politeness based on three variables preferred by native speakers (interrogative, conditional mood, and hearer-orientation) and to produce polite requests of their own based on the same three variables. Results from the first task revealed that learners are able to recognize degree of deference in requests only to a moderate degree. Results from the second instrument suggested that learners are insufficiently familiar with the conditional of politeness or that they are largely unable to use it in making polite requests. Gaps in students' sociopragmatic competence may be caused by incomplete transfer from L1 to L2 and by the difficulty of grammatical structures required for polite requests. This paper suggests that input from textbooks can be used to fill the gap related to polite requests if more attention is devoted to the presentation and practice of formulaic expressions and appropriate linguistic forms such as the conditional of politeness.