A number of researchers have recently argued that politeness is not always inferred in the form of an implicature as claimed by Brown and Levinson (1987), but rather can be anticipated by addressees when it involves expected behaviour. The distinction between anticipated and inferred politeness is thus an important area for further development of politeness theory. In this paper, the way in which the notion of ‘expectations’ is related to politeness is first considered, before outlining the distinction between anticipated and inferred politeness in some detail. It is then argued that discourse politeness theory (Usami, 1998, 2001a, b, 2002) shows greater promise for deepening our understanding of this distinction than the proposals made thus far by relevance theorists. It is concluded that any investigation of the distinction between anticipating and inferring politeness must ultimately be grounded in empirical studies of politeness phenomena.