Chances are, you've used the French abbreviation RSVP without even knowing its English translation. Commonly used for correspondence like wedding invitations and other formal occasions in the U.S. and U.K., RSVP stands for répondez s'il vous plaît and is literally translated as "respond if you please." It is used when the speaker doesn't know or wishes to show respect for another person.
Usage and Examples
Though it's a French acronym, RSVP is no longer used much in France, where it's considered formal and very old-fashioned. The preferred expression is réponse souhaitée, usually followed by a date and/or a method. Alternatively, you can also use the abbreviation SVP, which stands for s'il vous plaît and means "please" in English. For example:
- Réponse souhaitée avant le 14 juillet. > Please respond by 14 July.
- Réponse souhaitée à 01.23.45.67.89. > Please respond by calling 01.23.45.67.89.
- Réponse souhaitée par mail. > Please respond by email.
Use in English
Oftentimes, people sending invitations will write "please RSVP," rather than just using the abbreviation. Technically, this is incorrect because it means "please please respond." But most people won't fault you for doing so. RSVP is also sometimes used in English as an informal verb:
- Mike is RSVPing by phone.
- I already RSVPed last week.
Etiquette experts say that if you receive an invitation with an RSVP, you should respond whether your answer is yes or no. When it says "RSVP regrets only," you should respond if you do not plan to attend because a non-response is taken as an affirmative.