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How to Say “Please” in French in Every Situation

Manners don’t cost a thing, so there’s no excuse for not saying “please” and “thank you”. Whenever you visit a foreign country, it’s basic courtesy to know how to say a few simple words in the local language: “hello”, “goodbye”, “please”, and “thank you”. If you’re new to learning French or are planning a trip to the land of baguettes, cheese and wine, then you definitely need to know how to say “please” in French.

“Please” in French – Formal

In French, we do not say “please” with one word, but rather a sentence. In fact, there are two different ways to say it, depending on who you are speaking to. The first way that you need to know to say “please” in French is s’il vous plaît.

Let’s break this down:

Si + il + vous + plaît

  1. We can’t put two vowels next to each other in a French sentence, so the first two words are contracted into one word: s’il. Si means “if”, and il means “it”.
  2. Vous is the object of the sentence, and it is the formal way to say “you”. This means you would use vous to address strangers, your superiors, and people older than you as a sign of respect. It is also the second-person plural pronoun, so you can use it when addressing a group of people, no matter their age or status.
  3. Plaît is the verb plaire, conjugated in the third person. Plaire means “to please”.

S’il vous plaît therefore means “if it pleases you”, or as we would more commonly say “if you please”.

Examples of s’il vous plaît in French

  • Pouvez-vous ouvrir la porte, s’il vous plaît ? – Can you open the door, please?
  • Je voudrais une baguette et deux croissants, s’il vous plaît – I’d like a baguette and two croissants, please
  • S’il vous plaît, arrêtez de vous disputer tous les deux ! – Please, stop arguing you two!

“Please” in French – Informal

The second way to say please in French is s’il te plaît. This is also French for if you please, but the difference lies in the personal pronoun. The verb “plaire”, meaning “to please”, is followed by the preposition “à”, making it an indirect transitive verb that requires an indirect object pronoun: me, te, lui, vous, nous or leur.

“Te” is used in informal situations, for family and friends, people you know well, anyone younger than you, and all children. Unlike vous, te is only ever singular.

Examples of s’il te plaît in French

  • Va me chercher un chiffon, s’il te plaît – Fetch me a cloth, please
  • S’il te plaît, rentre à la maison à l’heure ce soir – Please, come home on time tonight
  • S’il te plaît maman, on peut aller au parc ? – Please mom, can we go to the park?

Why is there an accent on plaît?

The little accent on the “i” is a circumflex accent. For verbs ending in –aître or –oître, as well as plaire, the “i” takes on a circumflex accent as soon as it is followed by a “t”, for example in “il connaît” and “il paraît que”. This means that in the expressions s’il vous plaît and s’il te plaît, we must always write the “î” with a circumflex accent.

French word for “please”: alternatives

In English, we like to use “please” a little too often compared to other languages. British people in particular are renowned for their overuse of manners. In French, they don’t say “please” after every request, and it’s not particularly rude either. There are other ways you can phrase a request politely, but sometimes you don’t need to say anything aside from the request itself.

Ça vous dérange

You can ask someone if something bothers them using the verb déranger. This is the equivalent of saying “do you mind?”.

  • Cela vous dérangerait-il d’échanger votre place avec moi ? – Would you mind trading places with me? (formal)
  • Ça te dérange d’ouvrir la fenêtre ? – Do you mind opening the window? (informal)


Vouloir is a frequently used verb meaning “to want”. We can also use this verb in the 2nd person plural with the imperative as a polite way to say “please”. The imperative is used to give orders, in this case in a courteous manner, or to politely ask people to do something in formal situations.

  • Veuillez vous asseoir, le spectacle est sur le point de commencer – Please take your seats, the show is about to start
  • Mesdames et messieurs, veuillez me suivre – Ladies and gentlemen, please follow me
  • Veuillez excuser mon retard – Please excuse my lateness

Prière de

In public notices, it is preferable to use the expression prière de. Prière de followed by a verb in its infinitive form means “please” or “kindly” do something. This expression is only ever used in writing.

  • Prière de fermer la porte – Please close the door
  • Prière de ne pas toucher les oeuvres – Please do not touch the artwork
  • Si vous n’acceptez pas ces conditions, prière de nous le signaler – If you do not accept these conditions, please let us know

Merci de

The final way to give a polite command is merci de. This literally means “thank you for” and is followed by an infinitive verb.

  • Merci de rester assis jusqu’à l’arrêt complet de l’avion – Please remain seated until the plane has come to a complete standstill
  • Merci d’éteindre vos téléphones portables – Please turn off your cell phones
  • Merci de bien vouloir m’envoyer votre CV par mail – Please send me your resumé by email

Just ask for what you want

In many other languages, particularly in Europe, it’s not considered impolite to ask for something without saying “please”. That said, your tone of voice and body language will affect the way you come across. Smiling kindly and asking for something is very different to being imposing and aggressive, even if you use the exact same words.

  • Tu peux me passer le sel ? – Can you pass the salt?
  • Je vais prendre la salade caprese, et ensuite les spaghettis à la carbonara – I’ll take the caprese salad, followed by the spaghetti carbonara

To increase the formality and politeness, we can use the conditional tense. Let’s take a look at which verbs to use with please in French, and which tenses…

Which tense to use with “please” in French?

The most formal way to ask for something would be using the conditional tense. This makes it sound like the person you are speaking to has a choice to accept or refuse your request, which is more polite than just asking them to do something outright. Using “could” in French is formal enough to omit the “please”, although we would rarely do this in English.

  • Pourriez-vous remplir ce formulaire ? – Could you please fill out this form?
  • Pourriez-vous m’indiquer le chemin du lycée ? Could you please show me the way to the high school?
  • Jeune homme, pourrais-tu me passer la bouteille sur l’étagère du haut ? – Young man, could you pass me that bottle on the top shelf?

May I please have” in French

When you want to say please can I have in French, we modify the verb “pouvoir” to say “can I?” or “may I?”. When inverting the subject and the verb, we cannot say peux-je, instead we use “puis-je”, which is said with liaison, practically pronounced as one word.

  • S’il vous plaît, puis-je avoir une autre serviette ? – Please may I have another towel?
  • Monsieur, puis-je aller aux toilettes s’il vous plaît ? – Sir, can I please go to the bathroom?
  • Puis-je regarder de plus près ? – May I take a closer look?

“Yes please” in French

If we are offered something and want to take someone up on their offer, we will naturally say “yes, please”. In French, this isn’t necessary. You can simply say yes. Alternatively, we can say “yes, thank you”, which seems backwards considering they haven’t given us anything yet. Think of “oui, merci” as saying “yes” and then thanking them for the offer, or thanking them in advance for what they are about to give you.

  • Voulez-vous un café ? Oui, merci – Do you want a coffee? Yes, thanks
  • Je peux vous prêter ce livre si vous voulez ? Oui, ce serait super – I can lend you that book if you like? Yes, that would be great.
  • Tu veux te joindre à nous ? Oui, je veux bien – Do you want to join us? Yes I’d like that

Other uses of s’il vous plaît

In some parts of Belgium and Eastern France, s’il te plaît and s’il vous plaît are used instead of voici when presenting or giving an object to someone. This could be in any circumstances, from the formal exchange of paperwork to the shopkeeper handing you your groceries. Here are some examples of when you could use s’il vous plaît:

  • A waiter placing your food on the table
  • The postman handing over a parcel
  • Your colleague passing you a file

You could extend this “s’il vous plaît” to “s’il vous plaît de bien vouloir prendre l’objet en question” meaning “please take the object in question”. This is thought to sound more polite than just voici ou voilà, but is not commonplace in most of France and other French-speaking countries.

Je vous prie de bien vouloir

French salutations are pretty long and wordy, and one of the commonly used phrases in letters and emails is actually another French term we would translate as please. “Je vous prie de bien vouloir” literally means “I ask you to want to…”. It’s much easier to understand this long-winded sentence in context:

  • Merci de bien vouloir écouter attentivement toutes les instructions données par les membres du personnel – Please listen carefully to all instructions given by members of staff
  • Merci de bien vouloir nous communiquer la date prévue d’achèvement des travaux dès que vous en aurez connaissance – Please let us know the expected completion date as soon as you are aware of it
  • Merci de bien vouloir vous référer à mon courriel daté du 5 janvier 2024 – Please refer to my email dated January 5, 2024

Slang ways to say “please” in French

In French slang, the informal and colloquial way to say “please” is s’il te plaît or its abbreviated form stp (pronounced “ess-tay-peh”). You will come across this in written French in informal situations such as text messages and on social media. Kids and teenagers even go as far as to pronounce the letters when speaking rather than using the real words, despite it not being much shorter or easier to say.

How kids say “please” in French

I’m sure you’ve already heard children begging their parents for something. In English, it sounds something like this: “Pleeeeeease!”

In French, children will shorten s’il te plaît until it sounds almost like one word. This can be written s’te plaît. When the kids are saying it to cajole their parents into doing what they want, it sounds more like “stuh-plaaaay”

  • Maman, je veux des bonbons, s’te plaît ! – Mommy, I want some candy, pretty please!”
  • Je peux y aller maintenant, s’te plaît ? – Can I go now, pleeease ?
  • On peut manger une pizza à midi ? S’te plaît, s’te plaît, s’te plaît ! – Can we have pizza for lunch? Please, please, pleeeease!”

Polite abbreviations

It’s not only in informal writing that we can use abbreviations. In professional emails, you could also abbreviate s’il vous plaît to S.V.P.

Be careful not to use this in highly formal correspondence, and never in spoken language.

  • Salut l’équipe, venez tous me voir avant de partir S.V.P. – Hi team, please come and see me before you leave.
  • Pourriez-vous me rendre un service S.V.P.? – Could you please do me a favor?

Body language and tone

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of non-verbal cues such as body language, which can convey politeness in French conversation. Tone of voice can also complement verbal expressions of courtesy. Vouvoiement, or using “vous” instead of “tu”, is also a sign of manners which shows you are being polite.

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