I know that “S'il vous plait” means please. But what's the actual structure of it. Is it a reflexive verb or something else ?

  • Isn't it the exact equivalent of if you please ?
    – Jylo
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 20:56

3 Answers 3


Plaire = to please

Vous plaire = to please you

Il vous plaît = it pleases you / you like

S'il vous plaît = if it pleases you / if you like

S'il vous plaît de faire ainsi = if it pleases you to do so

That's the grammatical construction; the idiomatic meaning is not "if it pleases you," but "please".

  • 1
    Regardless of its etymology as debated here, the non-ironic sense of the English phrase if you please is another way to translate/analyze “S'il vous plait” that goes beyond a simple “please” but falls a bit short of the literal, less idiomatic “if it pleases you.”
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 13:27
  • If you say it slowly and emphatically, in a sarcastic/joking way, can you force it to be interpreted as "If it pleases you" ? Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 17:19

S'il vous plaît means: if it [what is going to be said by the speaker] pleases you, literally. On its own, it means /please/ in English. As in please and thank you.

Beyond that, there are two impersonal situations: S'il vous plaît de dire: If you like saying that etc.

S'il leur plaît de nager les dimananche, etc. If they like swimming on Sundays

or less frequent: S'il vous plaît qu'elle aille de bonne heure. Usually expressed as: Si cela vous plaît qu'elle aille de bonne heure. If you would like her to go earlier.

In English, the S'il vous plaît QUE would be translated with a would. Rule: S'il + indirect object pronoun + plaire (plait ou plaisait etc.)

The non-impersonal situation is the straight reflexive form of the verb:

Examples: Cela me plaît

La neige ne leur plaît pas

Le filme ne leur a pas plu

Les comédies leur plaisaient bien à l'époque

All those are literally passive constructions. The snow was not pleasing to them. Idiomatically: They don't like the snow.

The rule here to say that you don't like something with the reflexive is form: Noun + indirect object pronoun + the verb plaire.

  • 1
    @On a eu Corrigé
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 12:23

"S’il vous plaît que …" : "If you like that …"

It is used alone for "please" but it doesn't have any other meanig without a subordonate.

  • 2
    S'il vous plait que? If you like that?? That's not exactly very usual....Si cela vous plait de [dire ou autre verbe]. It you like saying that...it's much more usual....
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 23:32
  • Only if the verb is an infinitive. You need to use "que" if it's a subjonctive : "Si cela vous plaît que nous passions notre temps à débattre" "Si ça te plaît que je fasse ça." If you use an infinitive the subject of both verbs is the same : "Si ça te plaît de faire ça" = "Si ça te plaît que tu fasses ça" (which sounds odd). So it is very common to use it to specify another subject for the second proposition : "ça vous plaît que je parte" vs "ça vous plaît qu’ils partent" vs "ça vous plaît que nous partions", etc…
    – Stéphane
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 16:48
  • Of course, one would use subjunctive in some cases, but there's a lot to learn before that....
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 17:51
  • What about "if you please" ?
    – Jylo
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 20:57

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