What Is The Difference Between 'Can You Help Me' And 'Could You Help Me'?



On my polite-o-meter, the two sentences score very close: "Could you help me, please?", "Could you please help me?". The former sounds more formal. Use whichever one you want & you"ll be more polite than most people.

The following data is a very rough indication that "please-on-the-end" might be more common: 1

1 Google results may not be accurate at all. I will be reviewing this. Another answer suggests a different result.

Sentence structure has an impact on information emphasis:

How lớn learn all of this?

There are a lot of great answers in this thread (I suggest you read them too!), but that can be overwhelming! Usage is highly dependent on context. Rather than trying khổng lồ learn 1000 rules on usage, I suggest that you gain subtle usage skills naturally through observation & experience .

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edited Feb 28, 2014 at 2:39
answered Feb 27, 2014 at 17:09

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There are a lot of subtleties hidden in the different words and word orders mentioned here. Changing the place in the sentence of the word please changes its emphasis; roughly, the earlier the word comes in the sentence, the stronger the request for help. Notice RayB"s point that putting please at the over of the sentence sounds more polite. This is because it"s a bit less insistent.

Context is very important as wxechieuve.com.vn; a more insistent request for help can go with a more pressing need for it và not be impolite. If for example, a child came up to lớn a stranger và said "Could you please help me? I"m lost." the child would probably be thought of as very wxechieuve.com.vn-mannered, keeping a cool head in a frightening situation. On the other hand, if a shopper asked a clerk "could you please help me?" instead of "could you help me, please?" it would typically convey a sense of irritation at having been made lớn wait too long. I say typically because one can always use tone of voice to lớn change this.

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Now, "would you help me, please" sounds bit less insistent to me than using could, I suppose because it"s asking if one is willing to lớn help rather than if one is able to. "Won"t you help me" usually doesn"t go with "please" since it is really asking if the person is unwilling khổng lồ help even though he should. (Edit: I chú ý the exception khổng lồ this of "won"t you pleeease, please help me" from the Beatles tuy vậy mentioned in another answer. When you vị use won"t you please in this sense, it is particularly insistent. There"s a flavor almost of begging in the song.)

A funny story comes khổng lồ mind. I used to know a guy who had spent a number of years as a fisherman in Maine, and he told this story. One evening, he was in the boathouse with some of his friends, & the radio came on:

Jim?Hey, Phil, what"s up?Not much. You doing anything right now?Nope, just sitting here with Joe and George.Wxechieuve.com.vn, could you stop out và pick me up, please?Sure, where are you?About three miles out, taking on water.

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The reason it"s funny is because the màn chơi of insistence for help was way less than the need for it.