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As far as I know, many languages have no rules for the place of "please" in the sentence.

In German, seems it's not the same. Is it right to use "bitte" at the beginning or at the end of each sentence instead of the common usage?

Saying:

Kannst du mir helfen, bitte?*

Instead of:

Kannst du mir bitte helfen?

Or

Lesen Sie das Buch, bitte! - Bitte lesen Sie das Buch!*

Instead of:

Lesen Sie bitte das Buch!

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The most common way is putting bitte in the middle of the sentence as you did in your examples. And - imho - it sounds best that way. "Bitte" at the beginning or the ending of a sentence sounds always a bit clumsy to my ears, if it is not one of the idioms Takkat mentioned in his answers. But in those idioms it wouldn't be possible to put "Bitte" somewhere in the middle. –  Em1 May 31 '12 at 7:43
    
konnten sie bitte die flasche waschen? –  user3087 Jul 5 '13 at 9:37

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Yes, it's perfectly correct.

However, I would argue that it has a slightly different meaning: If you place "bitte" at the end of the sentence, you put more emphasis on it and make it clear that you really expect him/her to do what you ask.

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2  
I should note that it may have that meaning, sometimes it's just the speaking reminding himself that he should include a "bitte" in his sentence to seem more polite ;) Sometimes it just happens to be there for no particular reason. –  phant0m Jun 23 '11 at 0:08

Using "Bitte" at the beginning is OK. So is using it in the middle as you do in your examples.

Using it at the end of the sentence sounds wrong to me. You could put "Bitte" at the end of a request to emphasize, but I would put it into its own sentence:

"Kannst Du mir helfen? Bitte?"

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You can put "Bitte" in it's own sentence, but at the end of the sentence is correct, too. Even thought it's nice to say "Bitte" in the sentence, it can sound a bit harsh when it's at the end. –  Markus Schwalbe Jun 23 '11 at 7:04

All the examples in your question are correct. If the parts of a sentence that belong together stay together, you can put them in any order you want, like:

Der Lehrling hat gestern dem Meister auf die Glatze gespuckt.

Gestern hat der Lehrling dem Meister auf die Glatze gespuckt.

Dem Meister hat gestern der Lehrling auf die Glatze gespuckt.

Auf die Glatze hat der Lehrling dem Meister gestern gespuckt.

etc.

In your example, all of the following are correct:

Kannst du mir bitte helfen?

Bitte, kannst du mir helfen?

Kannst du bitte mir helfen?

Kannst du mir helfen, bitte?

The first and the fourth sentence sound most natural to me.

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To point it out: The first is the usual way, the second emphasizes "bitte" or you use it to get the attention, the third emphasizes "mir" and the last is already discussed in the other answers. –  Em1 May 31 '12 at 7:41
    
But the same is true for the other example: The third sentence emphasizes that it was the apprentice who spit, and the fourth emphasizes that it was the bald head where he spit on. –  celtschk Jun 13 '12 at 11:54
    
In a poetic context, also "Kannst, bitte, du mir helfen" would also work. –  celtschk Jun 23 at 20:20

Putting "bitte" at the end is grammatically correct but it is not the usual place where Germans put it to be polite. As phant0m already pointed out you will put more emphasis on your request by doing so. This makes it almost a demand and therefore takes away some of the politeness that may have been intended.

If you put "bitte" at the end of the sentence it reminds one of situations where parents speak to their children:

  • "Räum' doch endlich Dein Zimmer auf, bitte!"
  • "Kevin komm her, bitte!"

To avoid this and to not appear to have forgotten to be polite (see comment in phant0m's answer) it may be better to not use "bitte" at the end of a sentence.

Exceptions are some idioms where "bitte" is always put at the end:

  • "Wie spät ist es, bitte?"
  • "Entschuldigen Sie bitte!"
  • "Der Nächste, bitte!"
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