Please and Thank You

To say please in French, we use the phrase:

s’il vous plaît (SEEL voo PLAY)

This polite expression literally means, “if it pleases you.” Perhaps you have received an invitation that contains the initials R.S.V.P. This is short for the French phrase répondez s’il vous plaît, which means “please respond.” The person giving the invitation wants to know if you will come or not. This little bit of French etiquette is used quite commonly in English.

There is also a more familiar form of please:

s’il te plaît (SEEL tuh PLAY)

This is the form that you would use with your close friends. The other form s’il vous plaît is more polite. You would say s’il vous plaît to an adult, a person you don’t know very well, or a stranger.

Now we will learn how to say thank you. The word for thank you is:

merci (mayr-SEE)

Thank you very much is:

merci beaucoup (mayr-SEE boh-KOO)

Doesn’t merci look like the English word mercy? They are cognates, words that are related because they have a common origin. Both are derived from the same Latin word: merces. Merces means payment or reward. The family of related English words includes merchant, merchandise and market.

Saying thank you in French is like returning the payment deserved by the person who has been kind to you. Note that our English word mercy means giving something that is better, kinder or more compassionate than what is expected or deserved. When someone does something nice for you, always remember to give back at least this one thing: a sincere merci !


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