Please and Thank You — S'il te plaît et merci

You know that part of being polite to others is saying “please” and “thank you.” “Please” and “thank you” come in two versions in French, one for tu and one for vous. For your friends, you always use the friendly “you,” and for adults and strangers you use the formal “you.” Of course, if you're speaking to more than one person, you also have to use the vous.

Another “You” — Encore un vous

To say “please” in French, you need to conjugate a special verb, plaire. This verb does something very odd — it's “intransitive.” When a French verb is intransitive, it insists on having a special pronoun!

The intransitive pronoun for tu is te, or t' in front of a vowel. So when you say “please” to your friend, you say s'il te plaît, which literally means, “if it's a pleasure to you.” The intransitive form of vous is plain old vous, so to say “please” to an adult or more than one person, you say, s'il vous plaît.“Thank you” is merci for both, whether the “you” is friendly or formal, singular or plural.

IMPORTANT TIPS TRUCS IMPORTANTS

When you thank someone with merci in French, they often reply je vous en prie, which literally means “I pray you accept this service.” Over time, je vous en prie came to mean “you're welcome.” De rien (“it's nothing”) is another polite way of replying to a thank you.

Mind Your Manners

Good manners are important everywhere, but be ready for new customs when you travel. Did you know it's considered polite to put your elbows on the table and keep your hands in sight when in France? Of course, it's always important to remember to say “please,” and “thank you.”

Can you find your way through this merci maze?

Here's a table to help you learn:

The Friendly You — Le “tu” sympa

English

French

Please

S'il te plaît

Thank you

Merci

Thank you very much

Merci beaucoup

The Formal You — Le “vous” formel

Please

S'il vous plaît

Thank you

Merci

I thank you

Je vous remercie

Thank you so much, Sir/Madam

Merci beaucoup, monsieur/madame

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