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I've always known that please is s'il vous plaît in French (s'il te plaît with tu.) Recently I've come across the word veuillez which also translates to please.

What is the correct usage of each word? Some examples in the wild include:

  • Veuillez aller à l'arriere d'autobus. (Please move to the back of the bus.)
  • Veuillez renseigner ce champ. (Please fill in this field.)
  • Est-ce que tu peux repondre s'il te plaît ? (Can you respond please?)

Would it be incorrect to write S'il vous plaît, allez à l’arrière d'autobus. ?

From these and other examples I've seen, I gather that veuillez should be used when telling someone to do something and s'il vous plaît when asking someone a question. Is this conclusion correct? Are there other differences that I should know about?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Veuillez” is the second person plural conjugation1 of “vouloir” in the impératif présent. “Allez à l’arrière du bus” in french is a direct order; “Veuillez aller à l’arrière du bus” (litt. “Want to go to the back of the bus”) is softer. By consequence, it is indeed only used when you ask someone to do something. In English, you should indeed translate it by “please”.

However, it is perfectly compatible with “s’il vous plaît”:

Veuillez aller à l’arrière de l’autobus, s’il vous plaît.
Veuillez s’il vous plaît aller à l’arrière de l’autobus.

are both perfectly correct and should be considered more appropriate than the no-s’il-vous-plaît counterpart.

S’il vous plaît, allez à l’arrière de l’autobus.

is correct but more of a plea. (Please go to the back of the bus ?!)

Allez à l’arrière du bus, s’il vous plaît.

is much stronger than “veuillez”, more akin to what a teacher would say its student than to what you would say to a stranger.

  1. Actually, the impératif présent of vouloir is only used in the 2nd person plural, never in the 2nd person singular or 1st person plural.
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About the last remark, this could also be the 2nd person singular with a polite emphasis. I mean you can totally use it for addressing politely to a single man. I couldn't tell if it is incorrect to tell "Veuille ..." or just never used, but it seems weird to read/hear/tell it indeed :-) – Laurent S. Jan 22 '15 at 14:13

I guess I'd translate it with "would you (please)..." As stated before (and same as in english) it is a softer imperative: Instead of saying "please move to the end of the bus" you'd say "would you please move to the end of the bus"

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