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Please. (SVP, STP)

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

English: Please.

French. S'il vous plaît (SVP). S'il te plaît (STP).

A quick lesson on the two ways to say "please" in French and what the difference between them is.

"Please" is "s'il vous plaît" or "s'il te plaît". They both literally mean "if it pleases you." In writing, they are usually abbreviated as SVP and STP, respectively.

You may know that French has two ways to say "you", a formal way and an informal way. "S'il vous plaît" uses the formal "you" (vous) and is generally used when speaking to strangers, older people, and in professional settings. "S'il te plaît" uses the informal "you" (te) and is used when speaking to family members, friends, and younger people. The distinction between the two is not set in stone and the decision to use SVP or STP in a given situation will depend on the French-speaking region, the individual French-speaker, and many other factors. As a French learner, you won't go wrong if you just stick to the formal SVP until you feel more comfortable with the language.

As a flight attendant speaking to passengers, asking them to please stow their bags for landing, for example, we'd almost always use the formal SVP to show politeness and professionalism. To keep things simple, we can use SVP at all times, even when speaking to young children.

French Canadians also tend to use STP more readily than European French speakers, even with strangers and older people. It's not a sign of impoliteness, but rather a sign of closeness, as they will reserve SVP for extremely formal contexts. It's common to hear French Canadians at a store or on the phone using the informal "you" with strangers, whereas European francophones would use the formal "you" in similar situations. As such, even when we flight attendants address French Canadian passengers using the formal "you", they will often respond with the informal "you", especially if we're younger.


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