All the ways of saying “please” in French — going beyond your basic “s’il vous plaît”!
One of the first things you learn to say in French is “please” (and “thank you”).
The standard way of saying “please” is s’il vous plaît. There’s nothing wrong this, and it works in a lot of situations.
But sometimes it’s too formal. And sometimes it’s for the wrong translation of “please”.
If you like this, you might want to check out our resources to learn French cheaply using books and online materials. No expensive courses necessary!
(By the way, refering to the picture above… even though we think of macarons as being French, it turns out that macarons have a shared and intertwined history between France and Italy.)
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Please in French — When to use the basic form
- S’il vous plaît
You probably already know s’il vous plaît, but I want to clarify when to use the most basic form of please in French.
The meaning of s’il vous plaît is literally “if it gives you pleasure” or “if it pleases you”.
The context in which you use this form of please in French is when you’re asking something of someone — either for them to give you something or to do something for you.
Please in French to a friend or child
- s’il te plaît
- s’t plaît
To say please in French to a friend or a child, you modify it slightly: s’il te plaît is the more informal form.
Often you say this a bit quicker, and it sounds like s’t plaît.
Please, you first!
- Je vous en prie!
- Je t’en prie!
In English sometimes we say “please” as we invite someone to start eating first, or to go through a door first.
In French, you use the expression je vous en prie or the more informal je t’en prie (if speaking to someone young, or a familiar person; admittedly this is rarer since it’s such a courteous gesture, and it goes well with a formal way of speaking).
You gesture to the plate of food or the open door and say je vous en prie!
An alternative and also very common form of “please, go ahead!” is allez-y or vas-y! This is more direct, and is kind of an encouraging gesture.
- Oui, merci!
- Oui, avec plaisir!
When some offers you something, like a cup of coffee, it’s more appropriate to respond with oui, merci! than oui, s’il vous plaît! — though neither is wrong.
The literal meaning of oui, merci! is “yes, thank you!“. The literal translation of avec plaisir is “with pleasure”, but it sounds less stuffy in French.
The difference is subtle. The meaning of s’il vous plaît is more implorative; you use it when you’re asking someone to do something.
As you please
- Ce que vous voulez/ce que tu veux
- Comme vous voulez/comme tu veux
Sometimes you want to say “do it however you please” by which I mean “however you want”.
In this case you’d say “Faites comme vous voulez” or “Fais comme tu veux”.
You can also use the alternative form mentioned above too. The phrase ce que is more in reference to a specific option.
Please note/please find attached
This is a formal word but it’s how you write “Please” in an email when saying something “please find attached”.
French grammar nerd note: Literally, veuillez is the vous imperative form of “volouir”. So it means “Want!”, kind of as a command. (It’s never used in the tu form.)
For example “please find attached my cheque for one trillion euros” is veuillez trouver ci-joint un chèque d’un billion* d’euros. There you go, that’ll come in handy. If you’re a trillionaire and reading this blog, then good news, we’re looking for a patron!
(Yes, “trillion” in English is billion in French… super confusing!)
Another useful form is “please find below”, which is veuillez trouver ci-dessous.
- Oh, c’est bon!
- Non, mais arrête!
- Ça suffit!
Sometimes you want to get someone to stop with all the nonsense. There’s a lot of nonsense in the world… please, enough!
In this case, the way you say “please” in a way that means “enough” is by saying c’est bon! (that’s good/fine), ça suffit! (that’s enough!) or my personal favourite, arrête!
For emphasis, over-pronounce the end of the word arrête. Mais arrête-euh!
For some reason, this phrase conjures up scenes from Amélie. It’s not even my favourite film (it just bugs me that it’s so vanilla it doesn’t even have any non-white people; that’s not my Paris!), but I still picture her saying it.