How to use the magic word ‘please’ politely in English

In this video lesson we learn how American and British native English speakers use the word please in natural conversation. We look at its different uses, the different positions please takes in a sentence and also what that means for politeness.

Parents teach their children that please is a magic word.

Oh Mom. I wanna a bottle of coca cola.
No Sonny.
I wanna bottle of coca cola.
Sonny!

To get what they want, children have to ask nicely and say ‘please’. That’s why it’s a magic word. Most languages have a word like ‘please’, but they’re often used a little differently. So in today’s lesson we’re looking at some different ways we use ‘please’ in English. OK, the first use.

Do you want a cup of tea? Ooo yes please. I’ll be right back. Thank you.
So to accept an offer, say ‘yes please’.
Would you like some cheese? Ooo yes please.
Now here’s something interesting. We can also accept by saying ‘thank you’.
Hi. Hi. Newspaper? Thanks.
Hello Mary. How about a bottle of coca cola? Oh thank you Mr Thompkins.
We often say thank you if we’re refusing, but not please.
Have some more Marmite Jay. No thank you.

So say ‘yes please’ or ‘thank you’ to accept things, and say ‘no, thank you’ to refuse. Easy huh?
OK, the next use of please:

So you’re suggesting that we go with the green one? [Jay is heard talking about a baseball game.] Yes, not the gold one.
Incredible. Ha!
Jay. Take the call somewhere else.
Yes. Take the call somewhere else, please.

Please is a magic word here because it turns an order into a request.
Which phrase is more polite? Well the one with please, of course.
We use ‘please’ a lot in requests, especially small requests.

How much is it? Three pounds 70, please. Oh, OK.
Are you ready to order? Another minute, please.
Room service, please. Come in.
Your attention, please. I have an announcement.
Which floor? Seven please.

So we add please to small requests. We might add it to big requests too, but we have other ways of handling them. I’ll make another video about them another day.
Now notice that please comes at the end in these small requests. We can put it at the start too, and it generally sounds more forceful if we do that.

Please, stay here with me.
Why?
Are you scared or lonesome?
Both.

Putting please at the start adds emphasis. We might do this when we’re begging.

Jay!
Please can I have another?
No, you’ve had six already.

Vera. Open the door. Please open the door. Vera Open the door. Don’t use the phone. Listen to me.
I don’t like you Robert.
Vera. Open the door. Please open the door. Vera Open the door. Don’t use the phone. Listen to me.
I don’t like you Robert.

Now there’s another situation where we put please at the start. Again it adds force or emphasis, but it’s not begging.

Mmm. These candies are great.
Oh, please have another one.
Thanks.

When we’re inviting people to do something, we can say please.

Come in.
Oh hi Vicki. Please sit down.
Thank you.

Please come and see me Mrs Bailey.
Oh I’d love to.
And you too lieutenant.
Thank you. Good-bye. Goodbye.
Nice to have met you.

Now there’s a lttle difference between American and British English. Linguists have found that British people (like me) say ‘please’ more often when they make routine requests like ordering food in a restaurant.

Anything to drink?
I’ll have a coke, please.
And I’d like an iced tea.

British people say please more in this situation. Are we more polite? No. It’s just the customs are different. In American English, it’s perfectly polite to skip the please here.

Hi there, fellas.
Hi.
Howdy.
Two bottles of coca cola.
Coming up.

Let’s look at another restaurant conversation.

Are you ready to order?
Yes, I’d like a hamburger.
Would you like french fries with that?
Please.
Sure.

So there’s another use of please. Sometimes we use ‘please’ instead of ‘yes’.

Oh, can I give you a hand with that?
Please.
Where would you like it?
Over there.
Sure.

So let’s review. Please is a magic word because it can turn an order into a request. We can also use please to make and accept offers and invitations. We generally put ‘please’ at the end of requests, and at the start of invitations and offers. If we put it at the start of a request it adds emphasis. It sounds like we’re begging. Please do it!
OK. Now what about putting please in the middle? Well, that’s possible too, but be careful.

Now I want you to look carefully at this. July’s numbers are up…. Excuse me. Could you please concentrate on these figures?
Sorry.
Sorry, Rachel.

Please in the middle of a request is unusual or marked. It can signal extra politeness but usually it signals you’re annoyed. What’s annoyed? It means a little angry

Well, will you please hurry? I’ve got to be at the airport in ten minutes. I’m going as fast as I can.
Well, will you please hurry? I’ve got to be at the airport in ten minutes. I’m going as fast as I can.

Yes?
I’ve asked you three times. Could we please have the bill?
Yeah, yeah.

So be careful. If you put ‘please’ in the middle of a request and your intonation isn’t exactly right, you could signal that you’re annoyed. In fact we sometimes use please on its own to show we’re annoyed.

Jay, please! I’m trying to work.

And that’s it. Now you know how to use ‘please’ in English. If you’ve enjoyed today’s lesson, please share it. And make sure you subscribe to our channel so you catch all our future videos. Until next week! Bye!

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