RSVP - The French Expression Explained

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RSVP means "please respond." The literal and formal translations is "respond if you please." It is formal French, which is polite language that can be both written and spoken. It is used when the speaker doesn't know, wishes to show respect for, or wants to demonstrate distance/coldness toward another person.

Explanation and Examples

RSVP, short for répondez s'il vous plaît, is interesting for a few reasons.

Though it's a French acronym, RSVP is no longer used much in France, where it's considered formal and very old-fashioned; the preferred expression is réponse souhaitée, usually followed by a date and/or a method:

   Réponse souhaitée avant le 14 juillet.
   Please respond by 14 July.

   Réponse souhaitée à
   Please respond by calling

   Réponse souhaitée par mail.
   Please respond by email.

However, in English, RSVP is regularly used on wedding and other invitations. Unfortunately, they usually say "please RSVP," which you now know literally means "please please respond."

English also uses RSVP as an informal verb, e.g., Mike is RSVPing by phone. I already RSVPed last week.

Etiquette: When an invitation says "RSVP," you should respond whether your answer is yes or no. When it says "RSVP regrets only," you should respond if you do not plan to attend - a non-reponse is taken as an affirmative.

Variation: R.S.V.P.

Related expression (which is commonly used in French): SVP (short for s'il vous plaît) - please

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ThoughtCo. "RSVP - The French Expression Explained." ThoughtCo, Feb. 26, 2018, ThoughtCo. (2018, February 26). RSVP - The French Expression Explained. Retrieved from ThoughtCo. "RSVP - The French Expression Explained." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2018).