What would “vouloir” mean in this phrase “Merci de bien vouloir…”?

For me it is just a more formal version which no added meaning to the sentence. In which situation should we use this?

Are there similar constructs in which the added words kind of have no meaning but will add formality?


Actually, it is more formal.
In my opinion, it is so much formal, that it becomes ironical, and so is more like a demand than a request. Saying

Merci de fermer la porte

is already polite, you don't have to add «bien vouloir»...

You could also say

Merci de bien vouloir vous donner la peine de...

which is even stronger.
It actually means "it is not very difficult to do, so please do it".

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    If anything in the given example, it makes the demand softer. It adds a modal to what would otherwise seem like a direct order? – GAM PUB Sep 30 '15 at 15:50
  • @GAMPUB Sorry but I don't understand, can you explain ? :) – Random Oct 1 '15 at 7:34
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    Compare Merci de fermer la porte with Merci de bien vouloir fermer la porte, I find the second one, with the modal, softer. – GAM PUB Oct 2 '15 at 12:55
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    @Random, It is not a demand (exigeance) but a request (demande) and you are confusing "stronger" with "softer". – jlliagre Oct 7 '15 at 23:45
  • @jlliagre Indeed, I didn't know that demand was a "faux ami", thanks :). About stronger, it is not a confusion, I personnaly feel it stronger. It looks like it depends the situation and the person... I'll complete my answer. Thanks – Random Oct 8 '15 at 7:46

It's the idiomatic formal and polite way to express a request, usually in writing. It is nonetheless a request.

You may want to be careful about the word order. The old-fashioned and very formal usage has two formulas :

  • "Merci de vouloir bien..." is meant as an order and implies superiority : it is used when you address your report (or your butler or domestic servant)
  • Merci de bien vouloir" is meant as a request

It is unlikely that anybody will notice nowadays (except for someone in the military), and the widely accepted usage is "Merci de bien vouloir".

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Are there similar constructs in which the added words kind of have no meaning but will add formality?

as in "serait-ce un effet de votre haute bienveillance que de bien vouloir considérer xxx" ? :-) When I was young, we were advised at school (and books) to write any application letter or formal written request that way. But I guess even at that time, this XIXth-century sounding formulation was making human resource people smiling :-)

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  • I would imagine people rolling their eyes thinking "From which planet this guy is ?" if I say this lol. But perhaps Canadians still use those ? I heard people there are really serious about keeping their French "pure" and classic. – Kenny Oct 8 '15 at 8:51
  • I would answer or look-like "be straight and simple". But I'm not very patient not polite ;-) – Fabrice NEYRET Oct 8 '15 at 8:53

Isn't this similar to "Veuillez de fermer la porte" - it's a polite way of saying "Please close the door" - however its literal expression is "Please want to close the door" - which is kind of funny for us in English.

"Merci de bien vouloir" has the same sense of "Please kindly want to..."

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    Veuillez de fermer la porte does not exist that I know of. Veillez à (make sure you) fermer la porte is possible, but that's not the same verb (vouloir vs. veiller). Thanks. – user3177 May 7 '17 at 17:38
  • It would be veuillez fermer. – Destal May 9 '17 at 12:02

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