What's the difference between alsjeblieft and alstublieft?
One of the first things Dutch learners encounter is the two distinct forms of "please" — namely, alsjeblieft and alstublieft. Thankfully, the difference is easy to understand, and knowing when to use which is far less complicated than it may seem.
Alsjeblieft is the informal form.
Alstublieft is the formal form.
As you may have noticed, the informal form uses the informal pronoun je ("you"), whereas the formal form uses the formal pronoun u ("you"). This can help you remember which to use.
You should use the formal version when...
- Speaking to a stranger, and they're older than you
- Speaking to a stranger, and you wish to be particularly polite — maybe you're offering your seat on the bus to a pregnant young lady, or speaking to your postman, or talking to your waiter at a restaurant
- Speaking to anybody in a position of authority, such as a police officer, your boss, etc.
- Writing formal letters or emails
You can use the informal version when...
- Speaking to a stranger who's a teenager or child
- Speaking to friends, family, close acquaintances and romantic partners
- Writing letters, postcards or emails to friends and family
There is another, quirky time alstublieft is used — when paying a cashier or salesperson. For example, if you're at the cash register in a supermarket, you would hand over your cash and say "Alstublieft", to which the salesperson responds "Dank u wel". When they finally give you your receipt, or any change, you then say "dank u wel" to which they respond "alstublieft"!
Alstublieft in het Engels
When Dutch people visit England, the United States or another English-speaking country, they're often unsure what to say. A common question from Dutch speakers is "Hoe zeg je alstublieft in het Engels?" ("How do you say alstublieft in English?").
The answer is that English doesn't have any polite form of "please", as the word is considered polite enough on its own.
In situations involving cashiers and salespeople, English speakers would simply say "thanks" or "thank you" (or "cheers" in England) when handing over their cash or entering their card, and when receiving their receipt and change. They might also say "here you go" or something similar when offering cash, but a simple "thanks" is far more common throughout the process.
For Dutch speakers wishing to be extra polite, you could say "thank you very much", which is a closer approximation to dank u wel in English.