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Polite Requests: ‘Can You Please’ vs. ‘Could You Please

Polite Requests: ‘Can You Please’ vs. ‘Could You Please

Moving through life and indulging in everyday conversations, we use language with different styles, tenses, and dialects. We encounter many questions daily, with different styles, tenses, and dialects.

English is one of the most spoken languages out there. To many, it comes easy, while for others, it’s not the same. This language comes with its rules and regulations.

When you ask someone a question, usually the phrase “could you” is used or “can you.” Similarly, if we have to ask someone for a favor, we use “could you please” or “can you please.”

But the question arises: Are both of them correct? And if they’re correct, which specific features set them apart?

“Can you please” is more formal than “Could you please?” “Could you please” is a request for coordination, whereas “Can you please” is more of an order. Consider a teacher who has a rowdy class. Could you please be quiet? “is more effective than “Can you please be quiet?”

There is a question mark next to “Could you?” confirming that a question is supposed to be asked with an answer of “yes.”

I’m here to discuss and clear up any misunderstandings about these phrases that a layperson might have.

Let’s get started.

“Can You please” Or “Could You Please?”- Which One Is Correct?

Both of these statements are correct. The situation in which it is to be used is only delayed. “Could you please help me?” This is used to address a friend or family member. In that case, politeness isn’t as important as getting the job(s) done.

On the other hand, “Can you please help me?” is a formal way of addressing someone. 

For example, when addressing strangers or people in higher positions than the addressee, you cannot ask for assistance without being polite. But, in other cases, you have to be formal to ask for help.

I believe you got it from this brief explanation.

“Can You Please? Vs Could You Please?”

Put another way, “Could” is the polite form of “can,” so both are correct, but we use them differently. When we ask someone to do us a favor, we use the word “can.”

When we request, we use the word “could, making the conversation more formal.” “Can you please be quiet?” says the teacher to the students. “Could you please explain it again?” says the student to the teacher.

These examples help us understand that the use of these phrases will depend upon the type of conversation you’re having and the person you have to ask for a favor.

The Distinguishing Element Between ‘Could You Please’ And “Can You Please”

Both are correct and polite, yet adding “please” adds more politeness to the phrase. From the most impolite to the most polite, we have:

  • Make this happen!  (This is an impolite order)
  • Please do this (a blunt request)
  • Will you or can you please do this?  (Courtesy, but direct)
  • Could you please do this? (More polite and less direct.)
  • Could you please do this? (extremely polite)
  • Would you mind if I did this? (Extremely genteel)

So, after going through the examples, we can easily differentiate the mannerisms of these questions and add “could you” to a sentence, which makes it more polite than the others without it.

An image showing speech bubbles of Hello in eight different languages.
“Hello” is translated differently in Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, French, etc.

Does “Could You Please” End With A Question Mark?

The direct questions require question marks at the end, but some courteous requests also need question marks to sound better. Sometimes, people use them; most of the time, it is written like a simple sentence.

Many civil requests or instructions take the form of questions. However, because they are not true questions, they do not require a question mark. Such as:

  • Could you please send me your catalog?
  • Would all first- and business-class passengers be allowed to board now?

Apart from this, question marks are used in many other forms of sentences that are asked as a question. A question mark is originally used to indicate a question or query.

At the end of all direct questions, use a question mark:

  • What is your given name?
  • How much money did you send?
  • Did you send money in euros or dollars?

After a tag question, use a question mark:

  • Isn’t it true that you’re French?
  • Isn’t it true that snow isn’t green?
  • Isn’t it time for him to go see a doctor?

Although these are some of the most commonly spoken sentences, we still make a mistake in their punctuation. But I hope these examples might have helped you correct these punctuation mistakes.

Can We Use Both, Can You Please, And Could You Please?

Can you and Could you? Both of them are correct. The first is more direct, while the second is more polite.

The following examples tell us about their correct use :

  • Could you please help me?
  • Could you please send us some samples?
  • Could you send us some samples?

Fortunately, all these examples are suitable for using “could you.” Yet, there are differences in the prediction of the tone and the person you’re asking for a favor from. Otherwise, they are not wrong.

Similarly, these versions have two varying uses, as exemplified below.

  • Could you please inquire as to whether it is possible to send samples?
  • Could you assume there is ability but inquire about willingness?

However, in practice, most people will use the two versions interchangeably.

What Is The Distinction Between Them If Both Are Correct?

Yes, both are widely used. Most people prefer “Could you please…” because it is the traditional, polite way of asking someone to do something for you.

Close the door, pass the salt, or assist with something. If I instructed someone to do something, I’d say, “Can you please..” It is more commanding and less polite.

All in all, both are correct according to their contextual uses.

An English teacher teaching modal verbs on a whiteboard
Might, Must, Will, and Can come under the category of modal verbs in English.

There are many differences between the use of “Can and Could” in English. Let’s have a look at some of them.

The parametersCanCould
MeaningCan denote the ability
or permission to do something…
Could denote the possibility 
or capability of doing something
Pronunciationkan, kən kəd, kʊd
ExamplesI can’t wait any longer because I’m already late.
I can wait for you as long as you want.
Could you please pass me the bottle?
Could you please give me your pen?
Can Vs. Could- tabulated comparison

Which One Is Correct: “Can You Please” Or “Could You Please”?

To begin with, “Could you please” is more polite and less rude. When we say, “Can you please…”, we ask the subject if they can do something.

For example, “Can you please drive me to school?” Are you able to drive? If so, drive me to school; otherwise, leave it.

On the contrary, “Could you please…” is a request that the subject may grant if the circumstances are favorable.

For example, “Could you please drive me to school?” : If you are not too busy, you could drive me to school…if that is not an issue.

Hence, “Could you” is the more polite and thus less commonly used of the two.

Do you want to know more about modal verbs? You have come to the right place. Click on this video to learn more.

What Is The Dissimilarity Between “Would You” and “Could You”?

People use “Could you” and “would you” in their sentences. such as;

  • Would you mind closing the door?
  • Could you please shut the door behind me?

Part of the misunderstanding stems from textbooks, courses, and native speakers disagree. Here are three of the most common explanations:

“Would you?” is correct because you’re asking if someone will do something rather than if they can do it. “Would you” is also more formal than “Could you.”

In addition to that, “Would you” and “Could you” are both acceptable and polite ways to make a request. On the other hand, “Could you” is more formal than “Would you.”

“Would you please hurry up!” sounds more insistent and is more commonly used in angry requests.

“would you” and “could you” are used in formal settings. For example, while researching US Supreme Court cases, we discovered that judges made requests using “would you” and “could you.”

On the other hand, "would you?" is more commonly used. 

For example, while both “Would you please stand?” and “Could you please stand?” are used in speeches, the version with “would” is about seven times more common in subtitled speeches on YouTube.

“Would you” and “could you” are also used casually. In some cases, they are used interchangeably.

As a result, it appears that “would you” and “could you” are frequently interchangeable. However, “would you” is more common in formal English, while “could you” is more common in informal English.

An English teacher teaching model verbs. A closeup of the whiteboard is shown in the picture.
To have a coherent conversation, the English language requires keen learning of subject-verb agreements, specific parts of speech, and tenses.


  • The article delves into the nuances of using “Can you please” and “Could you please” in everyday conversations.
  • Both phrases are grammatically correct but serve different purposes and convey distinct tones.
  • “Could you please” is considered more polite and less direct, often used when requesting and seeking a favor.
  • Also, “Can you please” is more direct and can be perceived as slightly more commanding.
  • The choice between these phrases depends on the context and the level of politeness required. It also depends on the relationship between the speaker and the listener.
  • Additionally, the article touches on the differences between “Can” and “Could”. It is to denote ability versus willingness.
  • In the end, both phrases are acceptable in their respective contexts. It allows flexibility in communication based on the situation and conversational tone.

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