the usage of "please"

Hi there,
I was told recently that using “please” at the beginning of the sentence is not good English, and that it should always be placed at the end of the sentence.
What’s your opinion, please?
Thanks.

Hi Jaysee

In American English, we tend to use ‘please’ at the beginning of a polite command (imperative form):

  • Please be on time.
  • Please let me know when the shipment arrives.

In a request (interrogative form), we usually put ‘please’ in mid-sentence or at the end of the sentence:

  • Could I speak with John Smith, please?
  • Would you please let me know when the shipment arrives?

In my opinion, putting ‘please’ at the beginning of the interrogative sentences above would not be very typical in American English – not typical for adult speakers. That would tend to sound a bit childish (e.g. “Please, Mommy, please could I have some more?”)
However, this might be different in British English. Maybe someone from the UK will offer an opinion on this.
.

It’s also good English in requests to put “please” after the subject:

“Could you please help me with this?”
“May I please have your name?”

Those are the same as:

“Could you help me with this, please?”
“May I have your name, please?”

You have at least three correct choices as to where to put “please” in a sentence.

thanks a lot!

Hi Jamie,

Wouldn’t you say that putting ‘please’ in the end sounds a bit less demanding (particularly in spoken language)?

Imagine a mother saying

Could you tidy up your room, please?

vs

Could you please tidy up your room?

I think it all depends on the person’s tone of voice, Ralf.

BTW, could we take the origin of ‘please’ as from the phrase ‘pray thee’?

No. It’s from the Old French word plaisir, which itself comes from the Latin word placere. They both mean “to please”. The equivalent word is used in various ways in other languages.

I see. Thank you, Jamie.