Please in Danish

When learning a new language, often times learning how to ask politely is one of the first things we learn. 

 In English, they have the word ‘please’, in French the expression ‘S’il vous plaît’, in Spanish they say ‘por favor’. etc.

 But what about Danish? Danish doesn’t have such a word or expression!

 Now, the Danes must be very rude people for not having a word for ‘please’ to show politeness to others (I have actually met a person who thought that).

 However, even though we don’t have one word or expression that can be used to show politeness when asking others for help or for a favor, Danish has its own ways of expressing politeness.

Danish has a few fixed expressions to express politeness.

Some of these expressions are rather general and can be used in a wide variety of contexts. Others are a bit more specific and are used in particular types of questions or requests.

 Does my explanation seem a bit abstract? Still confused about how to say ‘please’ in Danish? 

 Let’s dive in and look at some actual examples...

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'Can I please have' på dansk

1. Må jeg bede om...?

"Må jeg bede om...?" is quite polite. You use this expression when you want someone to pass you something out of reach, for example over lunch: "Må jeg bede om saltet?" (Could you please pass me the salt?)
It could also be that you ask someone for information: "Må jeg bede om dit fulde navn?" (Can I please have your full name?)

2. Må jeg få...?

"Må jeg få...?" is lower on the politeness scale, compared to "Må jeg bede om...?" It is still polite, but you use it with people you know well and with whom you don't need to be overly polite, for example: "Må jeg få saltet?" (Can you pass me the salt, please?)

How to say 'please' very politely in Danish

With people you don't know (so well), there are certain expressions that we use in Danish to express a rather high level of politeness - and a certain cautiousness. When you don't want to seem demanding or bossy, but leaving the person with the option to reject your request.

3. Vær venlig at...

"Vær venlig at" is a polite way to give an order. You typically hear people representing the authorities in some way use this expression to politely ask people to do what they ask them to do, for example: "Vær venlig at have pas og billet klar" (Please keep your passport and ticket ready), "Vær venlig at træde tilbage. Der kommer tog" (Please step back, a train is coming), etc.

4. Jeg ville høre, om du (måske) kunne...?

This expression is very polite and is perfect for situations where you ask strangers for a favor, like: "Undskyld, jeg ville høre, om du kunne fortælle mig, hvad klokken er?" (Excuse me, I was wondering if you could tell what time it is?). 
It is also a good way to ask a friend for a big favor, for example: "Jeg ville høre, om jeg måske kunne låne din bil i weekenden?" (I was wondering if I could borrow your car this weekend?)

5. Du kunne vel ikke...?

"Du kunne vel ikke...?" is another very polite way to ask for something to someone you don't know or don't know so well, for example: "Undskyld, du kunne vel ikke lukke døren?" (Excuse me, would you mind closing the door, please?)

How to say 'please' to people you know well

With people we know well, we still want to be polite but often we move a bit down the politeness scale and use expressions that are polite, yes, but not as cautious and almost apologetic as some of the most polite expressions. The expressions in this category are polite but more straightforward.

6. Er du sød at...?

This expression actually literally means: "Are you so sweet to...". It basically translates to: "Can you please...?" and can be used in a wide range of situations, for example: "Det ringer på døren. Er du sød at åbne?" (The doorbell is ringing. Can you please open?)

7. Kan/kunne du ikke (lige)...?

Using the past tense form of the modal verbs, usually makes the request more polite. Also "ikke" (not) adds to the politeness factor, while "lige" (just) makes the request sound like a small, very easy-to-do favor: "Kan du ikke lige hjælpe mig?" (Give me a hand, will you?) or "Ah, kunne du ikke lige slukke for lyset?" (You're such an angel, would you mind switching off the light, please?)

8. Gider du ikke...?

The verb "gide" means "to want to" and we often use it to make polite requests to friends, family, colleagues and other people we know well: "Gider du ikke hjælpe mig med min skatteopgørelse her i weekenden?" (Would you mind helping me with my tax bill this weekend?). Adding "lige" to this expressions serves to make the request seem like an esay-peasy thing: "Gider du ikke lige løbe ned i Netto og købe en liter mælk?" (Please run down to the supermarket to buy some milk, will you?)

As you see, Danish doesn’t have one single word or expression to express politeness. To say ‘please’ in Danish, we use certain fixed expressions.

Now it's YOUR turn!

Think about a situation you are likely to find yourself in later today or tomorrow, and prepare how you are going to ask using one of the - more or less - polite expressions above, in other words how to say 'please' in Danish:

  • ​Maybe you want to ask your boss for permission to do something.
  •  Maybe you will ask a colleague for help.
  •  Or maybe you’ll ask your partner or child to pass you something over dinner.

Share your sentence in the comments below! 👇 

Happy practicing! 

Founder of Lingua Danica

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