When it comes to being polite in English, there seem to be a lot of rules that contradict one another. In this article, we’ll look at using “may you please” and whether it’s correct to do so. While it might seem polite, there are better options.
Is It Grammatically Correct To Use “May You Please”?
“May you please” is grammatically incorrect when you’re requesting something from someone. You need to use “would you please” or “can you please” to make a request. “May” is used to ask for permission, which is wrong when you’re asking for somebody to do something.
In all cases, when we use “may you please,” we follow it with a request. We say something like, “may you please pass the salt” or “may you please send me the list.” In both of these cases, we’re making a request, which means that “may” is the wrong word to use.
According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “may” is “used to ask or give permission.” That shows how it is incorrect to use “may you please” as a sentence structure.
Is It “May You Please” Or “Will You Please”?
So, what happens when we replace the word “may” with “will?” We can also extend it further and use “would” if we need to (which is another form of “will”).
“Will you please” and “would you please” are both correct. They are used to ask somebody to do something for you and to make a request. They both work better than “may you please,” which is wrong because “may” asks for permission.
It’s important to remember these differences when it comes to being polite. “Would you please” is generally considered the more polite option over “will you please,” but both phases are interchangeable.
The only major determining factor about which phrase you should use comes down to tone. If you’re in more casual circumstances, “will you please” works perfectly. If you’re in more formal cases, “would you please” is your best bet.
- Will you please pass me the napkin?
- Would you please pass me the napkin?
- Will you please keep the noise down!
- Would you please keep the noise down?
As you can see, the change is very subtle between the two, but it works well to demonstrate what we mean. “Would” is more formal and used to request someone to do something formally. “Will” is more informal and generally used to ask for someone to help you with something.
Should I Use “Can You Please” Instead Of “May You Please”?
The same thing can be applied when we look at “can you please” in place of “may you please.” Incidentally, “could you please” is another form of “can you please” to look at as well.
“Can you please” and “could you please” are both synonymous with “will you please” and “would you please.” You use them all to request that somebody do something for you. “Could you please” is more formal than “can you please.” “May you please” is still incorrect.
“Can you please” is on par with “will you please,” though most people think that “will” is slightly more polite than “can.” There are no direct language rules that say that one is better than the other here. It’s mostly down to personal preference.
- Can you please help me for a few minutes?
- Will you please help me for a few minutes?
- Can you please come downstairs?
- Will you please come downstairs?
The same can be said for using “could you please” and “would you please.”
- Could you please give me a hand?
- Would you please give me a hand?
- Could you please spare me some time?
- Would you please spare me some time?
“Could you please” is the more formal and polite version compared to “can you please.”
Common Misusages Of “May You Please”
Let’s go over some common misuses of “may you please.” It’s typical to hear a lot of people using “may you please” when they think they’re polite. The truth is, even native speakers make this mistake, but “may you please” is only used to ask permission, which is wrong.
Many people think “may you please” is how you politely start a request. You should use “would” or “could” instead of “may” to make sure you’re speaking in a grammatically correct way.
Here are some common misuses that people encounter:
- May you please explain to me what I did wrong in question seven?
- May you please send me an email about your findings when you’ve completed the search?
- May you please help me source this information before my time runs out?
- May you please check my house for mold? I’m worried about the kids.
- May you please pass the salt to my side of the table?
All of these examples show “may you please” being used to make a request. None of them are grammatically correct, so none of them should ever be used in this way.
You can remedy all of these questions by replacing them with your choice of “can,” “will,” “could,” or “would.” Most of the choice depends on the context and the formality you wish to deliver; otherwise, the choice is up to you.
- Will you please explain to me what I did wrong?
- Would you please send me an email?
- Could you please help me source this?
- Can you please check my house?
- Will you please pass the salt?
All of these examples are correct. They use one of the four correct variations used to make a request. Make sure you use one of these in place of “may you please” at any cost. If you want to stay polite, “could” and “would” are the best options.
Is “May You Please” A Question?
Whenever we’re using “may you please” (or any of the correct variations), we’re always asking a question.
“May you please” is wrong, but it’s used to ask a question. You can’t make a statement starting with “may you please” because you’re always asking for someone to do something for you.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you use the correct punctuation (a question mark will suffice). You’re asking someone to do something, which is always a question. There are no instances where “may you please” is used as a statement without question marks.
Is It More Correct To Use “May You” Instead Of “May You Please”?
Removing the word “please” from the phrase doesn’t do much to make it any more correct as a request. However, there are some instances where we can use “may you,” and it will be correct.
“May you” means the same as “may you please,” which means they’re both incorrect when used to request something. However, “may you” can be used to make a statement that wishes someone well in some way.
To illustrate what we mean, take a look at these examples:
- May you find what you’re looking for soon!
- May you always have faith in what you believe in!
- May you live a long and happy life.
All of these sentences use “may you.” We’re not asking questions or making requests when we use it, which is what makes all of these statements grammatically correct.
Instead of requesting something, we use “may you” to wish someone well. We want to encourage them to look after themselves in the future, which is the general idea behind using “may you” and then talking about a future event for them.
When Is It Grammatically Correct To Use “May”?
There are plenty of times that “may” is grammatically correct. Remember, if it isn’t correct to use it, then “may” wouldn’t even be a word.
We use “may” when we want to ask or give permission to something. It can be used in the question form as “may I?” or the statement form as “you may.”
We covered using “may you” above, which is one demonstration of using “may” in a grammatically correct manner. We also wanted to touch on some others for you to understand.
While “may you please” isn’t correct, we can turn it into a correct form with one simple change. If we use the pronoun “I” to refer to ourselves, then we are able to ask for permission correctly.
“May I please” or “may I” are both correct. You can use “may” correctly as a question with any pronoun other than “you,” since “you” refers to somebody else directly, and we can’t ask for permission through somebody else.
- May I please be excused?
- May I go now?
- May we have some fun?
All of these examples are used to ask for permission.
Now, let’s look at the statement form of the phrase. We can use any pronouns alongside “may” in this case, although certain pronouns have special rules.
For example, the phrase “you may” is fine on its own. However, “I may” isn’t correct unless we include something extra to indicate our intention of being given permission, like “if I may.”
- You may leave now.
- If I may, I’d like to visit my father.
- You may go when you’re ready.
In all of these cases, we’re giving permission. In the case of “if I may,” we’re preemptively allowing ourselves to receive permission from somebody else.
Is It Redundant To Say “May I Please”?
“May I please” isn’t redundant because the “please” part of the phrase is useful to be polite. However, “please” isn’t required in this phrase to make it grammatically correct. We can simply say “may I” to make it work.
So, why does that mean “may you please” is incorrect? Well, if you’ve been following along, you should have a pretty good idea of what we’re about to say.
“You” is not the correct pronoun to use when asking for permission. We can’t ask for permission through somebody else, so using “may you please” is incorrect.
If we’re asking for permission, we usually want to grant it for ourselves or someone we know (through a third party). That means “may I please,” “may he please,” “may we please,” and anything else along those lines is correct, while “may you please” is always wrong.
3 Better Ways To Ask For Something In A Polite Way
Some of the better ways to ask for something politely include:
- Would you mind
- Could you perhaps
- If you’d be so kind
The preferred version of these three phrases is “would you mind.” It’s the most common phrase you’ll come across when someone wants to be polite. “Mind” is used to ask whether someone is happy to do the thing we’ve just requested for them.
Would You Mind
“Would you mind” is a great alternative to use if you want to be polite with what you’re asking somebody. “Would” has already been established as a positive and polite word. “Mind” is used to check whether it’s okay to make this request with someone.
Combining those elements makes “would you mind” the best alternative.
- Would you mind passing the butter?
- Would you mind accompanying me to the meeting?
Could You Perhaps
“Could you perhaps” works in a very similar way to “would you mind.” “Could” has been explained as a polite word. “Perhaps” is used in place of “mind” to check whether somebody is okay with doing the thing we’ve requested.
Both phrases are set up in the same way to ask a polite question.
- Could you perhaps be there for me when I wake up?
- Could you perhaps accompany me to dinner tonight?
If You’d Be So Kind
If you’d be so kind is used to make a polite statement while also making a request. We’re asking if someone would be kind enough to help us out with whatever that request is.
This one works slightly differently compared to the other two, but it’s still a formal and polite phrase you can use.
- If you’d be so kind as to pass the butter, thank you.
- If you’d be so kind as to accompany me to the ball tonight, I will be a happy man.
You may also like: “Could You Please” vs. “Could You Kindly” – Difference & Alternatives
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.