I am a non-native speaker of English. When communicating with a professor, would it be better to use could you kindly send me the document or could you please send me the document? I know both are correct, but which one shows more respect?

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    – J.R.
    Jul 30, 2013 at 10:49

4 Answers 4


Both are polite, and no reasonable professor would take objection to either. If you wanted to sound a little more formal, you could say I should be most grateful if you would send me the document.

  • Yes, and in any case, a reasonable professor is going to allow for non-native English speakers.
    – slim
    Jan 5, 2012 at 14:47
  • 1
    Why do you use "should" instead of "would" at the beginning of your sentence? Oct 10, 2013 at 18:42
  • 7
    Because I'm a speaker of British English. Oct 10, 2013 at 18:46
  • 1
    If the OP is speaking to an American professor, it would probably be better for him to say "I would be most grateful if you would send me the document." I'm an American and I think Barrie England's sentence is a little strange - some might interpret his sentence as "I should be most grateful if you would send me the document, but I wouldn't be." Jul 2, 2014 at 7:55
  • "I would be grateful" should be considered incorrect for a different reason: to be grateful does not express a preference or desire, so the use of would would not be redundant (as it is with like); however is it possible or meaningful to use a mood of preference or desire in regard to being grateful? That is, does it make sense to say "I wish to be grateful"? I think ordinarily it does not, so "I should be grateful" is the correct usage in the "classic" system.
    – User
    Aug 9, 2020 at 15:14

If your professor knows you're not a native English speaker, he should be happy with either of those. So the following is purely academic:

"Please" is always the politest word to use when making a request. It is never wrong.

To my British ears, the following phrases have a very slightly haranguing tone (as of a nagging mother):

Would you kindly ...

Would you please ...

Could you kindly ...

Could you please ...

Whereas "Please could you..." is straightforward, conventional, polite and ubiquitous.


I would prefer the word please in more formal communications. Kindly would be better-suited for familiar environments.

Also, I would use the word "would" instead of "could."


I prefer using kindly rather than please. The latter sounds more like begging.

  • I also prefer kindly, instead of please for the same reason. But I am not sure why this one got so much downvoted.
    – Sudar
    Mar 27, 2014 at 0:03
  • @Sudar perhaps because it is just a subjective opinion (sounds like begging) with no citation.
    – nurettin
    Oct 14, 2015 at 12:06

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