French can be a more polite and formal language than, for example, English. When you start learning French, you will first learn how to say things like “please”, “thank you” and “you're welcome”. To keep your French formal, you should say "please" to someone you don't know differently than you would to your friends. When talking to a stranger, say "s'il vous plaît" (sil vu ple) to say "please."
Method 1 of 2: Speak Formally
Step 1. Use formal speech when addressing a stranger
There are two ways to mention the second person singular in French. Vous is the most formal version. When talking to people you don't know, especially adults or people older than you, it is appropriate to use vous.
- Vous is also the plural form of "you" in French, so you should use it when addressing multiple people, regardless of their ages.
- You will often refer to someone as "monsieur" or "madame" if you use the singular and formal pronoun vous.
Step 2. Say “s'il vous plaît” (sil vu ple) to indicate “please”
The expression "s'il vous plaît" can be translated as "If you like it." It literally means "If that pleases you." The word plaît is the conjugated form of the verb plaire, which means "to please" or "to like".
For example, you can say "Quelle heure est-il, s'il vous plaît?" to indicate "Can you tell me the time, please?"
Step 3. Use “je vous en prie” (ye vus an pri) to add more intensity to the message
The expression “je vous en prie” is more accurately translated as “I beg you”. Like it would be used in Spanish, it is reserved for extreme and even desperate situations.
For example, you can say "Ne me dénoncez pas, je vous en prie!" or "Do not report me, please!" This could also be translated as "Do not report me, I beg you!"
Method 2 of 2: Talk to Friends and Family
Step 1. Use your with the people you know
The second person singular form tu is a casual and familiar form of the pronoun. It's just singular. Use it when talking to a friend, family member, or someone your age or younger.
When you're not sure, use vous with people you don't know in social situations. He will correct you if you are wrong, but better err by being polite and formal
Step 2. Say “s'il te plaît” (sil tu ple) to indicate “please”
Just because you're talking casually doesn't mean your manners should go away. The pronoun te as object means that you are speaking with a single person who is contemporary or familiar.
For example, you can say "S'il te plaît, oú est le téléphone?" or "Please can you tell me where the phone is?"
Step 3. Say “s'te plaît” (stu ple) when speaking fast
Native French speakers often combine the first syllables of “s'il te plaît” together, making the expression have two syllables instead of three. Saying please this way will make you sound more natural.
Step 4. Use “je t'en prie” (ye so pri) in more intense situations
The expression "je t'en prie" is more literally translated as "I beg you." Therefore, you will want to use it in serious situations. However, it is sometimes used as a joke between friends with the form you.
- For example, you can say "Je t'en prie, écoute-moi!" or "Please listen to me!" It could also be translated as "I beg you, listen to me!"
- "Je t'en prie" can also be translated as "in any case." For example, you can say "Amène-le, je'ten prie" or "Bring it with you in any case."
- The expressions “je vous en prie” and “je t'en prie” are also used in French to mean “you're welcome”. This can be confusing for people who speak, for example, English. However, you may hear that native French speakers say it.
- In Belgium, “s'il vous plaît” or “s'il te plaît” is also used to indicate “you're welcome”.
- If you are writing in French via text message, you may see “STP” or “SVP” as abbreviations for “s'il te plâit” or “s'il vous plaît”. You may also see SVP written on some posters.
- You may hear the word "veuillez" followed by a verb to indicate "please" in some signs or advertisements. For example, “veuillez patienter” indicates “please wait”. Veuillez is the imperative form of the verb vouloir, which means "to want."