In pretty much every French course, one of the first expressions you learn is s’il vous plaît (please).
But did you know that there are lots of other ways you can say ‘please’ in French?
You don’t always need to say s’il vous plaît!
In fact, other French phrases are sometimes more suitable in different contexts, and if you want a little variation, you came to the right place.
I’ve got a few examples lined up so if you’re planning to go on an immersion trip to kickstart your learning, or just want to visit France, stay with us for some key facts about saying ‘please’ in French.
How do we say ‘please’ in French?
As we just mentioned, there are plenty of ways to say ‘please’ in French.
Just take a look at the following table:
|S’il vous plait||Please (if you please, formal)|
|Je vous en prie||Go ahead|
|Comme vous voulez||As you please|
|Oui, avec plaisir||Yes, please (with pleasure)|
|S’il te plaît||Please (if you please, informal)|
What does s’il vous plaît mean and which contexts require it?
The phrase s’il vous plaît literally translates to English as if it pleases you.
To emphasise my point in the introduction, you can use it if you intend to say ‘please’ — that’s what the phrase means, essentially.
But just so you’re aware of the particular contexts that require this phrase, s’il vous plaît is normally heard in formal contexts, which is indicated by the word vous in this phrase.
You’ll hear it everywhere in France as it’s a polite phrase that you use when you’re asking someone a favor.
Here are a couple of examples:
Bonjour, pouvez-vous me dire où se trouve le bureau de poste, s’il vous plaît?
Bon après-midi, je voudrais un billet aller-retour à Paris, s’il vous plait.
What is the difference between s’il vous plaît and s’il te plait?
Though these two French phrases for the word ‘please’ might appear similar, they are used in different contexts.
We’ve said that s’il vous plaît is used in formal contexts, well s’il te plait is reserved for informal contexts.
You should only use the latter phrase when speaking with friends and family.
Using oui, avec plaisir when someone offers you something nice
If someone offers you something in a hospitable way, you can use the French phrase oui, avec plaisir in response.
Though it literally translates to English as ‘yes, with pleasure’, in this context you can use it to say ‘yes, please’.
So, say you’re a guest in someone’s home, and the hôte (host) offers you a cup of tea, you can reply oui, avec plaisir. It’s more appropriate in this context as it’s used as a response to a hospitable gesture as opposed to a more general response that requires s’il vous plait.
You see, there’s no need to use the standard s’il vous plait all the time!
When to use je vous en prie
Now, this French phrase that can mean ‘please’, and is sometimes used alongside s’il vous plait — is also used in particular contexts.
Say someone is holding a door open for you in your office.
You’re likely to hear them say je vous en prie while signalling you to go through. The English equivalent would be ‘please, you first’, or ‘please, go ahead’. It’s a polite phrase that you’ll hear in contexts like these to show respect to others.
Note the tu form of this phrase, indicated by the word vous. This shows that the phrase je vous en prie should be used in formal contexts only.
So, you would use it when you are addressing colleagues at work and strangers who you don’t know.
Keep using these French phrases and always remember to say s’il vous plait
If you’re just starting, and had your first French lesson, it might be a bit tricky to remember variations of ‘please’ in French.
For now, try to bear in mind that s’il vous plait is used for formal contexts.
If you need a French phrase for informal contexts, stick with s’il te plait.
Once you get more confident, you can start trying to think about which contexts require which phrase — and you’ll soon be able to mix it up a bit and say ‘please’ in French in a whole range of ways.
Got any other tips for remembering these French phrases for ‘please’?
Share them below!