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Maybe I've watched too much television where everyone is sarcastic and upset about each other, but I feel like when I say please to ask for something, as in "Could you please change that ?", or "Please try doing this instead.", I'm doing the opposite of being polite.

I can't help but read it in a judgemental, condescending voice, does it feel the same for a native ?

For now it feels better without the please : "Could you change that ?" "Try doing that instead". What should I say ?

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    In this context, sarcasm is usually indicated by the way in which the words are accented, not by the inclusion of the word please. There's nothing wrong with it. – Mick Oct 13 '16 at 9:22
  • In speaking, intonation is everything. In writing, it is difficult to know what voice the reader may be using... – Peter Oct 13 '16 at 9:32
  • Be aware that sarcasm combined with understatement or nominally polite expressions can differ greatly between British English & American English... – John Feltz Oct 13 '16 at 14:58
  • @JohnFeltz How so ? – Teleporting Goat Oct 13 '16 at 15:02
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I hear you. I generally avoid please in writing, precisely because of ambiguities that could lead someone to take things the wrong way. I agree with you that those sentences sound a bit more polite without it.

A pretty surefire way to make your requests sound polite is to phrase them as a request. "Try doing that instead" may sound better as, "Can you try doing that instead?" "Could/Can you change that?" sounds fine.

When you do this, the please is no longer really necessary. And I think when you add it in, it sounds a little overly-polite, which could lead some people to interpret your politeness sarcastically. Or it can sound impatient.

That's not to say please is never used to be polite, but making it sound sincere depends a lot on intonation and stress, which are absent in writing.

  • If the interlocutor feels that the demand is comminatory or if he strongly disagrees with it, the word "please" (quite insincere in this case) would make the request more offensive. – Graffito Oct 13 '16 at 15:13
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In my - maybe old-fashioned - world, using 'please' still is a way of being polite.
I have to deal with U.S. technicians, clerks, attorneys, ... and all of them use it for that purpose.
In normal conversation I would consider it rude to omit 'please'. Even worse: A request ends with an exclamation mark. Of course, if you ask for the third time within one week without getting any response, a more or less sarcastic 'please' plus exclamation mark could be justified.

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