Easily Confused Words: Please vs. Pleas

Pleas and please are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Pleas (pronounced “plees”) is a plural form of the noun “plea.” It means a request for help or mercy.

Please (pronounced “plees”) has multiple meanings.

  • As an adverb, it is used to indicate politeness and respect when it’s added to commands and requests:
    • “Please come here.”
    • “Please stop punching the wall.”
    • “Please take out the garbage.”

The speaker wants obedience as a requited sign of respect.

  • As a verb, it means to make someone (or multiple people) happy or satisfied. It can also indicate procedure or orders are being followed.
  • As part of the idiom “oh please” or “child, please,” the speaker is indicating he/she is bothered by someone else’s nonsense, or not believing his/her nonsense.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Pili was out picking up some groceries for his mother on the way home from work. Standing in front of the eggs, he thought he heard pleas for help. He abandoned his cart and started walking down the main aisles when he saw an older man in another aisle had fallen down and a number of items had collapsed on top of him. Pili removed the cans and packages, and helped the man get to his feet. 

“Thank you, young man. Here’s $20 for your trouble, please take it.”

“Sir, I can’t take your money. A thank you is just fine. I am glad you are okay. But can I take you somewhere just to make sure you’re all right?”

“That would be really nice. Thank you.”


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