In Italian, there are a number of different ways you can translate the word “please” depending on what you are asking, who you are addressing and the level of formality the situation requires. Expressions range from the semi-casual to the very formal, while others still are mostly reserved for writing.
Below you can find the seven most common you’ll encounter when learning and interacting in Italian!
1. Per favore
Per favore is the phrase all learners of Italian come across within days of starting their first lessons. Literally translating as for favour, it can be considered the default way of saying please in Italian and works just fine in the vast majority of situations except formal written notices.
Puoi chiudere la finestra, per favore? Comincia a fare un po’ freddo.
Can you close the window, please? It’s starting to get a bit cold.
2. Per piacere
Per piacere is an extremely close synonym of per favore, although you may not learn it in class until you’re past the beginner’s stage. It literally translates as for favour/courtesy. Just like per favore, this phrase is acceptable in most situations.
Per piacere, non fate troppo rumore. Sono appena riuscito a far addormentare il bimbo.
Please, don’t make too much noise. I’ve just managed to put the baby to sleep.
3. Per cortesia
If you want to raise the level of formality a notch, try using the phrase per cortesia (lit: for courtesy) instead of per favore/piacere. Using this phrase will make you sound more polite and respectful when talking to strangers, older people, shopkeepers or waiters.
Per cortesia, potrebbe portarmi il conto?
Could you bring me the bill, please?
4. Ti prego / La prego / Vi prego
Prego is the first person of the verb pregare (to ask, pray, beg). The informal expression ti prego means I ask you but it can also be translated as please. You can use it with friends, children and family members. Italians also use it to beg someone to do something.
Ti prego, finisci la cena. È quasi ora di andare a letto.
Please, finish your dinner. It’s almost time to go to bed.
La prego is the formal version of ti prego, and should be used when talking to strangers, older adults or those with a higher status such as your boss, whereas vi prego is used when addressing more than one person.
5. Si prega di…
Si prega is the impersonal third person form of pregare, the same verb we saw in the section four. The expression si prega di… is used for very polite requests that aren’t directed towards specific individuals or groups but rather the public in general. For this reason, it appears far more often on signs and noticeboards than in speech.
Si prega di togliersi le scarpe prima di entrare.
Please take off your shoes before entering.
Cortesemente means courteously or kindly but in some contexts, please is also a suitable translation. It is normally used in written communication or very formal spoken situations. Note that it can be combined with phrases such as si prega and La prego for extra emphasis.
Mi può cortesemente comunicare i tempi per la spedizione?
Could you please inform me of the shipping times?
Gentilmente is very similar in meaning to cortesemente, also appearing frequently in written correspondences or formal speech.
Potrebbe gentilmente confermarmi la sua disponibilità per domani?
Could you please confirm your availability for tomorrow?