The Art of Politeness: Learn How to Say Please in French

Grover Laughton9 min
Created: Apr 23, 2024Last updated: May 1, 2024
Please in French

If you need to get a book, want a glass of water, or need help in French, one word can work wonders. It opens doors and makes people smile. Yes, we mean please in French. You can improve your language skills and show good manners if you know how to use it right. With our article, you’ll learn how to say ‘please’ in French.

Meaning and Importance of ‘Please’ in French Culture

French people value manners a lot. They show respect in everyday talks, from public to private matters. Even a simple act, like asking for directions, demands a courteous approach and respect for the other person.

But good manners involve more than just words. The way you speak, your tone, and your choice of phrases matter a lot in France. Even a small gesture has an impact on how the talk proceeds.

‘Please’ is one of the French words to know. How you say please in French matters a lot there. It can assist in better interaction, be it at a café, market, or workplace. Politeness aids not just in language learning; it also improves your understanding of the French way of life. Learning to say ‘please’ helps you respect and honor its values.

The Essentials: How to Say Please in French

Just like the word ‘hi’ in French, ‘please’ is crucial for friendly talks. It shows respect and also makes communication enjoyable. Below are the basic French phrases for ‘please’:

  • S’il vous plaît [sil vu plɛ] – Please. Used in formal situations.

S’il vous plaît, pourriez-vous m’aider avec ces sacs? [sil vu plɛ, pu.ʁi.e vu a.vɛk se sak] (Please, could you help me with these bags?)

  • S’il te plaît [sil tə plɛ] – Please. A casual way to say ‘please’ among friends or close ones.

S’il te plaît, peux-tu me donner du sucre ? [sil tə plɛ, pø ty mǝ don-e dy sykʁ] (Please, can you give me some sugar?)

  • Je vous prie [ʒə vu pʁi] – I pray you. A very polite and formal expression, often used in written communication or formal speeches.

Je vous prie de bien vouloir fermer la porte. [ʒə vu pʁi də bjɛ̃ vu.lwaʁ fɛʁ.me la pɔʁt] (I kindly ask you to close the door.)

  • Veuillez [vœ.je] – Kindly. Use it when asking something of someone you don’t know well.

Veuillez fermer la porte, s’il vous plaît. [vœ.je fɛʁ.me la pɔʁt, sil vu plɛ] (Kindly close the door, please.)

  • Merci de [mɛʁ.si də] – Thank you for. Used to make polite requests by thanking in advance.

Merci de votre attention. [mɛʁ.si də vɔtʁ a.tɑ̃.sjɔ̃] (Thank you for your attention.)

  • Pourriez-vous [pu.ʁje vu] – Could you please. A polite way to make requests respectfully.

Pourriez-vous me passer le pain? [pu.ʁje vu mə lə pɛ̃] (Could you pass me the bread, please?)

  • Je te prie [ʒə tə pʁi] – I beg you. This phrase shows someone pleading or strongly requesting something.

Je te prie de ne pas partir. [ʒə tə pʁi də nǝ pa paʁ.tiʁ] (I beg you not to leave.)

Formal and Informal Ways of Saying Please in the French Language

The way you say ‘please’ depends on the context and your relationship with the listener. The proper phrase to use can differ in formal or informal settings. We will explore both versions and their application below:

  • Auriez-vous l’amabilité de [o.ʁje vu də] – Would you be so kind to (formal). Used in very polite requests.

Auriez-vous l’amabilité de vérifier ces documents? [o.ʁje vu də ve.ʁi.fje seɑ̃] (Would you be so kind to check these documents?)

  • Puis-je vous demander [pɥi ʒ(ə) vu dǝ] – May I ask you. A polite way of asking for information or making requests.

Puis-je vous demander votre nom? [pɥi ʒ(ə) vu dǝ vɔtʁ nɔm] (May I ask your name, please?)

  • Vous est-il possible de [vu ɛ til pɔ.si.blə də] – Is it possible for you (formal). Suitable for making requests in a professional context.

Vous est-il possible de me prêter ce livre? [vu ɛ til pɔ.si.blə də mə pʁɛ.te sə livʁ] (Is it possible for you to lend me this book?)

  • Accepteriez-vous [ak.sɛp.te.ʁje vu] – Would you accept (formal). Ideal for polite requests. This please in French formal is used in professional settings.

Accepteriez-vous de prendre un café avec moi? [ak.sɛp.te.ʁje vu də pʁɑ̃dʁ œ̃ ka.fe a.vɛk mwa] (Would you accept to have a coffee with me?)

  • Consentiriez-vous [kɔ̃.sɑ̃.tʁi.ʁje vu] – Would you consent (formal). Used when seeking permission.

Consentiriez-vous à modifier votre réservation? [kɔ̃.sɑ̃.tʁi.ʁje vu a mɔ.di.fje vo.tʁ ʁe.zɛʁ.va.sjɔ̃] (Would you consent to modify your reservation?)

  • Je vous demanderais de [ʒə vu də.mɑ̃.dʁɛ də] – I would ask you to (formal). Often used in formal written or spoken requests.

Je vous demanderais de bien vouloir fermer les fenêtres. [ʒə vu də.mɑ̃.dʁɛ də bjɛ̃ vu.lwaʁ fɛʁ.me lɛ fə.nɛ.tʁ] (I would ask you to kindly close the windows.)

  • Je t’en prie [ʒə tɑ̃ pʁi] – Please (informal). A friendly, please in French informal way to ask a favor.

Prends encore un peu de gâteau, je t’en prie. [pʁɑ̃d ɑ̃.kɔʁ œ̃ pø də ɡɑ.to, ʒə tɑ̃ pʁi] (Have some more cake, please.)

  • Tu pourrais [ty pu.ʁɛ] – Could you (informal). Common in informal requests among friends or peers.

Tu pourrais me passer le sel, s’il te plaît? [ty pu.ʁɛ mə lə sɛl, sil tə plɛ] (Could you pass me the salt, please?)

  • On pourrait [ɔ̃ pu.ʁɛ] – We could (informal). Used for making polite suggestions in a group setting.

On pourrait aller voir un film ce soir. [ɔ̃ pu.ʁɛ a.le vwaʁ œ̃ film sə swaʁ] (We could go see a movie tonight.)


Other Terms of Politeness in French

Going beyond ‘please,’ there are many other expressions of politeness in French. They can help you show respect, express gratitude, or make a humble request. Let’s look at such phrases and their proper usage:

  • Merci [mɛʁ.si] – Thank you. A fundamental expression of gratitude.

Merci beaucoup pour votre aide. [mɛʁ.si bo.ku puʁ vo.tʁ‿ɛd] (Thank you very much for your help.)

  • De rien [də ʁjɛ̃] – You’re welcome. Used after someone thanks you.

Merci pour le café. De rien! [mɛʁ.si puʁ lə ka.fe. də ʁjɛ̃] (Thanks for the coffee. You’re welcome!)

  • Excusez-moi [ɛ mwa] – Excuse me. Used to get someone’s attention politely or to apologize.

Excusez-moi, pourriez-vous me dire l’heure? [ɛ mwa, pu.ʁje vu mə diʁ lœʁ] (Excuse me, could you tell me the time?)

  • Pardon [paʁ.dɔ̃] – Sorry. Used to apologize or when moving through a crowd.

Pardon, je n’ai pas fait exprès. [paʁ.dɔ̃, ʒə nɛ pa fɛ ɛks.pʁɛ] (Sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose.)

  • Avec plaisir [a.vɛk plɛ.ziʁ] – With pleasure. A polite response to a thank you.

Vous pouvez utiliser mon téléphone, avec plaisir. [vu‿ mɔ̃ te.le.fɔn, a.vɛk plɛ.ziʁ] (You can use my phone, with pleasure.)

  • Bien sûr [bjɛ̃ syʁ] – Of course. Expresses agreement or confirmation in a polite manner.

Bien sûr, vous pouvez compter sur moi. [bjɛ̃ syʁ, vu kɔ̃.te syʁ mwa] (Of course, you can count on me.)

  • Après vous [a.pʁɛ vu] – After you. A gesture of politeness, especially when entering or leaving a place.

Après vous, je vous en prie. [a.pʁɛ vu, ʒə vu.z‿ɑ̃ pʁi] (After you, please.)

  • Je vous en prie [ʒə vu.z‿ɑ̃ pʁi] – You’re welcome. A polite way to respond to a thank you, implying ‘please.’

Merci de m’avoir attendu. – Je vous en prie. [mɛʁ.si də m‿a.vwaʁ‿a.tɑ̃.dy – ʒə vu.z‿ɑ̃ pʁi] (Thank you for waiting for me. – You’re welcome.)

  • Enchanté [ɑ̃.ʃɑ̃.te] – Nice to meet you. Used when being introduced to someone.

Enchanté de faire votre connaissance. [ɑ̃.ʃɑ̃.te də fɛʁ vo.tʁ‿kɔ.nɛ.sɑ̃s] (Nice to meet you.)

  • Tenez [tə.ne] – Here you go. This French word for please is used when handing something to someone in a formal setting.

Tenez, votre menu. [tə.ne vo.tʁə me.ny] (Here is your menu.)

  • C’est gentil [sɛ ʒɑ̃.til] – That’s kind (informal). Acknowledges a kind gesture or compliment in a friendly manner.

C’est gentil de votre part de m’aider. [sɛ ʒɑ̃.til də vo.tʁə paʁ də m‿ɛ.de] (That’s kind of you to help me.)

  • Volontiers [vɔ.lɔ̃.tje] – Gladly. Expresses willingness to do something gladly and is used both formally and informally.

Je répondrai à votre question, volontiers. [ʒə ʁe.pɔ̃.dʁe a vo.tʁə kɛs.tjɔ̃, vɔ.lɔ̃.tje] (I will answer your question, gladly.)

Common Mistakes When Saying Please in French

Even with the best intentions, learners sometimes make mistakes when using ‘please’ in French. It can happen due to differences in cultural norms or lack of language practice. Here, we will go over the most common errors:

  • Using the wrong form. Please in French s’il vous plait [sil vu plɛ] is for formal situations. Don’t use it with your close friends or family. In such cases, s’il te plaît [sil tə plɛ] is a great alternative.
  • Incomplete phrase. When asking for something, always phrase it as a question (Pouvez-vous me passer le sel, s’il vous plait?). Dropping words may cause confusion.
  • Over-politeness. It’s not necessary to always use ‘please’ with every request. In casual or repetitive situations, it may come off as stiff. Use your judgment based on the context and the relationship you have with the other person.
  • Incorrect pronunciation. French is a language that puts emphasis on correct pronunciation. Mispronouncing ‘please’ might give off the wrong message or even cause misunderstandings.

With a bit of practice, you will know how to say please in French without errors. So, try to utilize these phrases daily and focus on correct usage and pronunciation. 

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Knowing what is please in French is your start in mastering polite conversations. This small word matters a lot. It shows you value others and helps make chats better. The usage depends on the setting and the people involved, so you need to choose between more formal and informal variants. A bit of practice will surely help you get comfortable with this.


How does French politeness differ from English when making requests?

French politeness asks for a softer tone and formal language. A direct command might be okay In English. In French, it’s better to use phrases that sound like polite requests and translate to ‘I pray’ or ‘I request.’

Is it acceptable to use tu when asking for something politely in French?

If you want to know how to say please in French informal situations, ‘tu’ is suitable. It can be used if the other person is a buddy, a kin, or the same age as you. Use ‘vous’ in more serious talks.

What gestures accompany polite phrases in French?

Politeness comes with a soft smile and eye contact. A gentle nod can express understanding or gratitude. Using proper titles when addressing people is also seen as polite.

Where can I learn other French vocabulary?

Tatoeba is a website where you can find thousands of sentences and translations in many languages. Reverso Context also offers real-life examples for various words and phrases. A French language learning app by Promova provides word lists, quizzes, and other tools to build your vocabulary.