The first well-researched contrastive pragmatic analysis of requests and apologies in British English and Uruguayan Spanish. It takes the form of a cross-cultural corpus-based analysis using male and female native speakers of each language and systematically alternating the same social variables in both cultures. The data are elicited from a non-prescriptive open role-play yielding requests and apologies. The analysis of the speech acts is based on an adaptation of the categorical scheme developed by Blum-Kulka et al. (1989). The results show that speakers of English and Spanish differ in their choice of (in)directness levels, head-act modifications, and the politeness types of males and females in both cultures. Reference to an extensive bibliography and the thorough discussion of methodological issues concerning speech act studies deserve the attention of students of pragmatics as well as readers interested in cultural matters.