The English language lists the word “please” as an exclamation or an adverb used to make polite requests. Or to express surprise and even anger. Similarly, Italian native speakers have their ways to bend the meaning of this simple convention. So, we will discuss how to say please in Italian by looking at all the different nuances.
As you will soon find out, no single verb exactly translates “please” into Italian. In fact, they use different verbs and locutions to express every concept the word please can mean. Most locutions have at least two words because they usually are figures of speech. But you may encounter many verbs in the place of the standard verb to please, depending on the context.
How To Say Please In Italian – Per Favore
When you need to use please as an adverb or an exclamation, you cannot go wrong with “per favore.” But to fully understand what this short expression means, it is better to take it apart piece by piece.
The Italian word “per” is what Italians call a final preposition. That is, a preposition that signals a means of doing something. For example, the phrase “per correre” means “for the purpose of running,” “per mangiare” means “for the purpose of eating,” and this structure is always valid no matter the verb that follows. On a side note, it is also hard to create grammatical phrases that have no meaning when using this structure.
The noun “favore” literally translates as “favor.” As you might have guessed, “per favore” is short for “to make (me) a favor.” So, if an Italian asks you if you want a coffee, the usual reply would be “Sì, per favore.” (Yes, please.)
“Per favore” is a polite expression that mostly resembles the translation of the English concept of please in Italian. Sometimes, it may even sound too polite. But the real key is your tone of voice. In written communication it is a fantastic response to a written request. But the way you pronounce the words may alter the meaning and how the person understands them.
If the English and Italian words for please have one thing in common, that would be the possibility of being used as a euphemism. You may sound rude. On the other hand, if your tone is too cheerful, you may sound like a mindless child.
Per Favore and Grazie in Italian language
Italian children are taught good manners by repeating “grazie” and “per favore” when accepting and asking in daily conversations. So, the wrong tone may make you sound uncaring or naive.
Here are two ways you can avoid uttering the words with the wrong tone:
- use a calm, neutral, almost serious voice tone
- replace the phrase “Sì, per favore” with “Sì, grazie.” (Yes, Thank you)
“Per favore” is by far the most versatile way how to say please in Italian. You can also use it in questions, as pointed out earlier, in this manner:
- Mi dice che ore sono per favore? (Excuse me, could you please tell me what time is?)
- Per favore, mi ripeti cosa hai detto? (Could you please tell me what you just said one more time?)
- Me lo regge un attimo per favore? (Could you please hold it for a second?)
These sentences show that you can use “per favore” no matter the register [https://www.thoughtco.com/register-language-style-1692038] . In detail, it works in formal and informal situations. But most adult Italians would use “Sì, grazie” when accepting things and “Si, per favore” when confirming requests like in the following examples:
- Due zollette di zucchero (nel caffé)? (Would you like two teaspoons of sugar in your coffee?) Si, grazie. (Yes, please.)
- Vuoi che ti tenga il posto occupato? (Would you like me to save your place for you?) Sì, per favore. (Yes, please.)
When in doubt, go for “per favore“. “Sì, grazie” is a handy reply you can use any time you want to show gratitude to the other person. 90% of the time, they are interchangeable. So, do not worry about making mistakes but take a mental note of unusual facial expressions to tune your intuition.
No, please in Italian
Italians always want to save face when saying no. At least, the majority of them. So, they do not use the same expressions when denying what the other person asks or says.
While a simple “No” would suffice, the typical Italian speaker will make faces and act offended if you are that blunt. So, a better strategy would be to use a gentler version like “No, se non le dispiace.” (which literally translates as “No, if you do not mind.”) or “No, non è il caso.” (No, not this time.) which has a gloomy undertone.
“No, per favore” and “No, ti prego” would be more appropriate when talking with someone close, like Italian friends, your partner or a family member, mainly because it sounds a little like begging the other person.
If you use “No, per favore” in front of a group of people, they would expect you to make a polite, practical request like “non alzatevi” (do not stand up) or while motioning the crowd to stop clapping, suggesting the idea that their reaction is “too much.”
Refined ways to say please in Italian – Per cortesia
An articulate way to say please in Italian comes from classical authors like Dante Alighieri [https://poets.org/poet/dante-alighieri] . At first, such expression asked God and nobles for help or protection in supplication. But the clever use in later writings turned it into a humble yet classy way to ask for another person’s approval and agreement.
Today, you can insert it in a sentence as you would with per favore. But most Italians associate its use with formal and polite writing styles. Here are some examples:
- “Per cortesia, si controlli!” esclamò la donna. — The woman blurted out, “Please, behave yourself!”
- Per cortesia, si sposti! — Please, move out of the way!
- te lo chiedo per cortesia — I ask you kindly
You can also hear “Ma per cortesia!” (oh please!) in actual conversation as a linguistic remnant of the days of old. Usually, the tone and register are both formal in this case. Most likely, you would hear this in formal spoken situations. Older Italians might say this when talking between friends and strangers alike. Younger generations would only say it to senior fellow citizens when trying to appear playful, well-mannered, or just nice.
Please in Italian is often translated with “per piacere” as well. So much so that most of them would say please in English when they mean “pleasure.” But also because the words “please” and “piacere” resemble one another.
You can replace “per piacere” with “per favore” in most cases. Indeed, the difference is subtle: you sound a little bit more respectful when using the latter as the former is more informal. But most Italians would not mind if you said either one of them. They both show politeness to some degree.
“Prego” can also mean please in Italian. As stated, you would express agreement by uttering “Sì, grazie.” But sometimes, you may want to say “Prego.” To clarify, “prego” has another meaning, which is similar to the English phrase “I insist.” So, if a waiter were to offer to pour more wine, you could say “Prego” as a more refined, intellectual alternative to “Sì, grazie.” You allow it. It is a truly posh way of saying “Yes, please” in Italian. So, do not be puzzled if it raises some eyebrows.
A distinguished gentleman or lady could also say “A lei” (literally, “To you“) when giving back something to its owner. It only works when you hand out stuff, though. For instance, you might say “A lei” when giving change to an Italian customer instead of saying “Please take your change and receipt.” You would use this phrase as you hand the change and receipt without putting the money on the counter because the focus is on making it easier for the other person to take them. In other words, it is the formal version of saying “Please take it.” to strangers and people with a higher status.
The Verb “To Please”
You can find numerous translations of the verb please in Italian. Often, the term changes because Italians like to detail positive events. And the English verb please is not as descriptive as most Italians want. However, there are more generic verbs as well.
Here are some examples:
- Questo profumo mi aggrada. — This perfume pleases me. It makes me feel good and happy.
- Mi fa piacere che ti sia piaciuto. — It pleases me that you liked it. I am glad you liked it.
- Le condizioni attuali non mi soddisfano più. — The current terms no longer please me.
- Mi rincuora sapere che sei al sicuro. — It pleases me to know you are safe and sound. Finally, I feel more positive about your situation.
Fa piacere che
When translating from English into Italian, you might want to choose the most descriptive verb you can find. If you cannot find any verb that suits the situation, try using “fa piacere che,” which introduces a subordinate clause [https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/using-italian/subordinate-clauses/6CBEC49BF267C598B5541FB185FB473B] . Just remember to specify the person you would put as an object first because Italians use specific complements for the verb “fare” when used in this way. So, it would be “Mi fa piacere che” for “It pleases me that.” The other complements are “Ti” (informal) or “Le” (in formal speech) for a singular person and “Ci” (us) and “Vi” (you all) for groups of people. When referring to “them”, you use “loro,” but you put it after the verb as an exception. Some Italian phrases using these expressions are:
- Ti farà piacere / Le farà piacere
- Ci farà piacere / Vi farà piacere
- Farà piacere loro