Please and thank you - English Grammar Today - Cambridge Dictionaries Online

Please and thank you

from English Grammar Today

Please and thank you are usually associated with politeness. We use them a lot in English.


We use please to make a request more polite:

Can I borrow your pen, please?

Please call our Reservations Department for more information.

Word order

We usually put please at the end of a request with could, can and would, but we can also put it at the beginning or in the middle. Please in the mid position makes the request stronger.


Could you say that again, please?

Would you say that again, please?

Please could you do that again?

Please would you say that again?

Could you please say that again?

Can we please change the subject?

This is the most common position for please in a request.

Please in front position can make the request sound stronger, like an order.

Please in mid position makes the request stronger. In this position please is often stressed.

When talking to adults, children often use please in front position to adults when making a request or asking for permission.


[child to teacher]

Please can I leave early today, Sir?

[employee to boss]

Can I leave early today, please?

Not: Please can I leave early today?

Please with imperatives

We use please with the imperative form of a verb to express a polite request or order. We often find this in a classroom situation or in polite notices or written requests using the imperative. We usually put please in front position, at the beginning of the request, particularly in written requests and notices:

[in a classroom]

Please turn to page 10. (or Turn to page 10, please.)

Please note that credit cards are not accepted.

Please send your application, including details of your skills, qualifications and work achievements, to …

In speaking, we often use please to make an order less direct:

Pass the salt, please.

We often use please to accept something politely, particularly with food and drink:


What would you like to drink?


Orange juice, please.


I’m making a cup of tea. Would you like one?


Ooh, yes, please.


Do you want a lift to the station?


Yes, please. That would be great.

We use please to encourage or, more strongly, to beg someone to do something:


I’ll give you a call if I hear anything more.


Please do.

Please believe me.

But, please, don’t worry about it.

We can use please on its own to express disbelief, surprise or annoyance:


They took a taxi 100 metres down the road.


Oh, please. I can’t believe that.

Please. Just stop doing that. It’s really irritating.

Please as a verb

We use please as a verb:

You can come and go as you please. (as you like)

She was very hard to please. (to make happy)

Thank you and thanks

We use expressions with thank you and thanks to respond to something politely and to show we are grateful for something. Thanks is more informal than thank you. We often add other words to make the response stronger:


Thank you.

Thank you very much (indeed).

Thanks very much (indeed).

Thanks a lot.

Not: Thank you a lot.

We use thank you and thanks to answer a polite question or to reply to a comment:


How are you today?


I’m fine, thank you.


Your hair looks good.


Thanks very much.

We use thank you and thanks to accept or receive something and no, thank you or no, thanks to refuse something.





Would you like a biscuit?


Yes, please. Thanks.


Would you like a biscuit?


No, thanks.


Thank you on its own as a reply to an offer means that we accept:


Would you like some more soup?


Thank you. (This means yes.)

We use thank you and thanks to say that we are grateful for something:

Thank you for the flowers.

[the phone is ringing; A offers to answer it]


I’ll get the phone.



[from a radio phone-in programme]

Frank, thank you very much indeed for joining us on the programme this morning.

We use thank you even when we are receiving something that is ours:

[in a shop, at the checkout]


Here’s your change.


Thank you.

In informal speaking, we can use cheers or (very informally) ta to say thanks:


There’s a coffee for you in the kitchen.


Cheers. (or Ta very much!) (very informal)

Thank you for + -ing form

Thank you for or thanks for can be followed by the -ing form:

Thank you for helping us.

Thanks for sending a card.

Thank you as a noun

We can use thank you as a noun, often with big:

A big thank you to all those who helped with the sale.

Thank as a verb

We can use thank as a verb, always with an object and often with for + noun and for + -ing:

I thank you for your advice. (quite formal)

We would like to thank everyone for their generosity.

I’d like to thank you for coming here tonight.

Thank God

We say thank God, not thanks God, when we are pleased that something has happened which we feared would not happen, or vice versa:

Thank God you’re home! I was so worried that you’d had an accident.

Not: Thanks God you’re home.

Replying to thanks

We reply to thanks with expressions such as you’re welcome (more formal), not at all, no problem. We don’t use please as an answer to thank you:


Thanks for the flowers. You shouldn’t have.


You’re welcome.

Not: Please. or Nothing.


Thank you for fixing the internet connection.


No problem.

Thanks to

We often use thanks to to mean ‘because of’. It is more common in writing than speaking:

[from a newspaper report; Ipswich is a town in England]

An Ipswich man is back home from hospital and planning his summer wedding, thanks to a life-saving heart transplant.

Thanks to cancer research, John is now fit and well.

(“Please and thank you” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)
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