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?

  • So 'veuillez' could translate well to English as 'kindly'. For example, 'kindly move to the back of the bus' – Gabriel Aug 3 at 8:27

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
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    Never at 1st pp you write ??? Wrong! In some places, you can frequently hear : Veuillons nous asseoir, Veuillons nous recueillir... – aCOSwt Aug 22 '18 at 9:05

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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IN humble opinion, it is better: Veuillez + infinitif = Would you please + infinitive.

S'il vous plait = Please.

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S'il vous plait is used for requests, but veuillez is used for demands.

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    +1 I think you've got a point, but could you elaborate (examples, sources, etc) s'il vous plaît ? :) – mcadorel May 21 '19 at 16:57
  • Ok, for an example of a request using Veuillez: "Veuillez parler Anglaise", but for an example of a question using s'il vous plaît: "S'il vous plaît parler Anglaise?" Using Veuillez is more for demands or using a condesending tone. – Logan Abel May 21 '19 at 17:39
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    I'm afraid none of your sentences are correct French... – jlliagre May 21 '19 at 19:52
  • My family speaks informal french, as in Acadian – Logan Abel May 22 '19 at 18:11

I would think the (American) English equivalent would be "Do you want to...." or, in slang "Ya wanna...." For example, someone is coming toward the house struggling with several bags of groceries and says to me "Ya wanna take one of these?" That actually means "Would you please take one of these?" There's nothing rude or impolite about it. (Unless someone is being a bit passive agressive - which certainly happens.

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It seems that “Kindly” is a good English replacement. As in “Kindly” remove your shoes before entering. Or “Please” remove your shoes before entering.

It seems the aim is to be courteous when giving instructions or commands.

So “Please” is a good translation but “Kindly” will probably help English speakers understand the subtle but important difference.

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