Please, Thank You and You're Welcome

Three Key Expressions and When to Use Them

Idioms with Eat in English
Say "Thank you!". Mint Images / Getty Images

Please, thank you, and you're welcome are perhaps the most common phrases in English. Use please to politely ask for something, thank you or thanks when someone does something for you or gives you something. Finally, use you're welcome as a polite response when something thanks you for something. Learn the rules and alternate forms of these three important phrases in English. 

Please for Requests

Please is used in order to make requests more polite.

It is is added to the end of polite question and is preceded by a comma.

Polite Question + , + please + ?

Could you give me a hand, please?
May I use your telephone, please?
Can I join your table, please?

Please for Confirming Help

Please is also used to confirm an offer of help using the phrase: 'Yes, please.'

Would you like to come with us? - Yes, please.
May I help you? - Yes, please. I'd like to know ...

Giving Directions and Please

Orders are given in English using the imperative form. Generally, please is not used when giving directions or instructions, especially if there are a number of instructions to follow.

For example, a teacher might give the following instructions to a class:

Open your book to page 40.
Read the introduction.
Do the introductory exercises.
Read the passage.
Take the multiple choice follow-up quiz.

Please can be used when giving instructions to make the order a little more polite.

This is usually done when only one order (or instruction) is given and is used only in spoken English.

Please sit down.
Please pay attention.
Please fill in this form.

Notice that please is placed at the beginning of this structure.

Thank You

Thank you is used when a compliment is given.

You're a fantastic tennis player!
Thank you.

I really enjoyed dinner. It was very tasty.
Thank you, I'm glad you like it.

Thank You to Accept and Refuse Offers

Thank you is often used at the beginning of a reply to an offer. It can be used in both the positive and the negative form to either accept or refuse an offer.

Would you like something to drink?
Thank you. I'd like a cola, please.

Do you want to join us at the concert tonight?
No thank you. I need to study!

Thanks

Thanks is also used in the same manner as thank you in informal situations.

You're Welcome

The phrase you're welcome is the most common response when someone thanks you for something. You're welcome is a phrase that comes from the German word willkommen. However, as you can read below, the use is very different than in German. Other phrases for saying you're welcome include:

Formal 

Don't mention it.
Not at all.
My pleasure. 
I'm glad to have been of help.

Informal

No problem.
Sure.
Certainly. 

When to NOT use Please

Please is not used as a response to thank you.

WRONG

Thank you.
Please

RIGHT

Thank you
You're welcome

Thank you
No problem

Thank you
Not at all

The Use of Please and Thank You Compared to Other Languages

The use of please and thank you in English is very important. Please and thank you have their equivalents in other languages, but the usage of please and thank you in English is not always the same.

Let's take two examples one from German and one from Italian in which a translation of please is used in Italian or German, but not in English.

Italian 'Please' - Prego

Posso sedermi?
Prego

Literal English translation:

Can I sit down me?
Please

Proper English translation:

Can I sit down?
Certainly

German 'Please' - Bitte

Vielen Dank!
Bitte schoen!

Literal English translation:

Many thanks!
Please pretty!

Common English translation:

Many thanks!
You're welcome!

More English Functions

The use of please and thank you are known as functions. Learning correct language functions will help you understand and use the correct phrases and grammar in specific situations.