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please can/could you VS could you please

English translation: degrees of politeness - see Q./answers

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:please can/could you VS could you please
English translation:degrees of politeness - see Q./answers
Entered by: Rachel Fell
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21:39 Apr 9, 2006
English to English translations [PRO]
General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters
English term or phrase: please can/could you VS could you please
I wonder if someone could enlighten me as to whether requests starting with "Please can/could you..." render the same degree of politeness as those that start with "Could you please...". If no, which one is more polite and/or more common these days in the US? Does the question mark provide any added value in terms of either politeness or usage?

Many thanks in advance :-)
Marina Aleyeva
Ukraine
Local time: 22:22
degrees of politeness
Explanation:
1) Please could you...? most polite - conditional tense
2) Please can you...? also polite but less concessive
3) Could you please...? this depends on what follows, as it could be either a polite request as 1) or a more bossy (imperative) but polite- sounding order

I think there should be a question mark, as a question is being asked and it's a bit "sloppy" to omit it - but it also depends how the rest of the sentence goes, but it indicates some extra care probably if you put one in!

(I am from UK though!)

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Note added at 18 mins (2006-04-09 21:57:45 GMT)
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re 3) it really depends on the rest of the sentence: it can sound equal to 1)

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Note added at 11 hrs (2006-04-10 09:19:01 GMT)
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agree with PeterE above about the question mark too - it depends, as I said!
Selected response from:

Rachel Fell
Local time: 20:22
Grading comment
Thanks a lot for your great help Rachel, and to everyone who contributed.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +9degrees of politeness
Rachel Fell
4 +3"may" and "would" seem to have been forgottenxxxCMJ_Trans
4 +1could is more polite
Kim Metzger
4"Could" implies one is able to,zaphod
2No difference (not in UK anyway)
Jack Doughty


Discussion entries: 5





  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 2/5Answerer confidence 2/5
please can/could you vs could you please
No difference (not in UK anyway)


Explanation:
Low confidence because you specifically ask about the USA and I am not sure about that.

Jack Doughty
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:22
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 310
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10 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
please can/could you vs could you please
could is more polite


Explanation:
"Please could you" is more polite than "please can you"

Michael Swan, Practical English Usage:

Can and could - interpersonal uses (permission, requests)
We 'can' ask for and give permission: "Can I ask you for something"?
We also use 'could' to ask permission; it is more polite or formal than 'can'.

Changing the word order to "could you please" is no more or less polite - it's a matter of style.


whether requests starting with "Please can/could you..." render the same degree of politeness as those that start with "Could you please...". If no, which one is more polite and/or more common these days in the US? Does the question mark provide any added value in terms of either politeness or usage?


Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 14:22
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 80

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Peter Enright: I suppose the qn mark is a matter of choice. I usually avoid it b/c the construction is halfway betw a question/request and an order.
5 hrs
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10 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
"Could" implies one is able to,


Explanation:
"Can" questions this.
One supplicates (Could) the other questions ability (Can).

If you could, would you?
If you can, will you?

You can get away with asking "Could I come over later?" (Of course, or I'm busy)

but not: "Can I come over later?"
(I don't know, can you?)

I don't "Can" belongs here at all.



zaphod
Local time: 21:22
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 12
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10 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
please can/could you vs could you please
"may" and "would" seem to have been forgotten


Explanation:
Your question begs other issues: first of all there is the difference between "may" and "can"

Can I have a piece of cake please? (Is it within the realms of possibility)
May I have a piece of cake please? (Am I allowed to)
People make the distinction less and less these days but grammatically you should say "May I ask you for something?"

The classic tale was the child that asked its father: Can I go out? and the father that replied: you can but you may not..... (nuance) - in the sense that the child was physically capable of going out but the father would not allow.

Also when asking for something, it is even more polite to say: Would you please (do this or that)

So don't forget these aspects, will you?



xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 21:22
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 32

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Rachel Fell: good points
43 mins

agree  MikeGarcia
1 hr

agree  Raging Dreamer: My thoughts exactly.
2 hrs
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9 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +9
please can/could you vs could you please
degrees of politeness


Explanation:
1) Please could you...? most polite - conditional tense
2) Please can you...? also polite but less concessive
3) Could you please...? this depends on what follows, as it could be either a polite request as 1) or a more bossy (imperative) but polite- sounding order

I think there should be a question mark, as a question is being asked and it's a bit "sloppy" to omit it - but it also depends how the rest of the sentence goes, but it indicates some extra care probably if you put one in!

(I am from UK though!)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 18 mins (2006-04-09 21:57:45 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

re 3) it really depends on the rest of the sentence: it can sound equal to 1)

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 11 hrs (2006-04-10 09:19:01 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

agree with PeterE above about the question mark too - it depends, as I said!

Rachel Fell
Local time: 20:22
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 12
Grading comment
Thanks a lot for your great help Rachel, and to everyone who contributed.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Kim Metzger: There's no difference between UK and US usage in this case.
3 mins
  -> Thank you Kim - not always the way (that there's no difference)!

agree  Ghyslaine LE NAGARD: Absolutely
29 mins
  -> Thank you, NewCal!

agree  conejo: I agree, although in the US, we don't really say "please can you.." (sounds odd to me grammatically). For US usage, people normally say "could you please do X?" Or if it is less formal, you would say "Can you please do X (when you get some time, etc.)?"
56 mins
  -> Thank you + for your comments:)

agree  Dave Calderhead
2 hrs
  -> Thank you Dave:)

agree  Ala Rabie: i totally agree with conejo.
2 hrs
  -> Thank you enshrine:)

agree  Alison Jenner
10 hrs
  -> Thank you Alison:)

agree  MikeGarcia
11 hrs
  -> Thank you Miguel:)

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
19 hrs
  -> Thank you Marju:)

agree  Isodynamia
22 hrs
  -> Thank you Constantina:)
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