‘Please’ as an impoliteness marker in English discourse

Laya Heidari Darani
Department of English, Falavarjan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan
Mostafa Morady Moghaddam
Shahrood University of Technology, Shahrood, Iran
Keywords: impoliteness, Iranian EFL learners, native English speakers, please, politeness, pragmatics


This study explored how Iranian EFL learners and native English speakers conceptualized the impolite use of please in interaction. Moreover, attempts were made to examine whether Iranian EFL learners and native English speakers differ in using the impolite version of please in their communications. To this end, informal conversations of 20 Iranian EFL learners in pairs and small groups were recorded and transcribed. The impolite version of please in these conversations was compared with similar data from the Bergen Corpus of London Teenage Language (COLT). According to results, several functions of the ‘impolite’ please were found among Iranian EFL learners and native English speakers. Firstly, please was used to establish or confirm harmonious relationships between the speakers; it was used as rapport-strengthening impoliteness marker. Secondly, ‘mock impoliteness’ was conceptualized to bear positive meaning since it was interpreted as an amusing or entertaining remark. In teenagers’ circles, entertainment skills whereby impolite please was employed were highly valued. Thirdly, participants adhered to ‘repetition’, ‘reformulation’, and ‘escalation’ in their interactions to show their creative impoliteness. Finally, it was concluded that certain functions of the impolite please were shared between the Iranian EFL learners and native English speakers, while some functions were not shared between these two groups.