I'm wondering how to say "please" in Classical Latin like "please" as in "can I PLEASE have that?" or "PLEASE go away" or something like that.
In Latin you need a verb to say "please". The verb quaesere mentioned by ktm5124 is a good one, but not the only one. That verb is used typically only in first person singular or plural present nominative, quaeso or quaesumus.
Here are some other verbs meaning "ask", "beg", or similar:
Because these are verbs, you need to be more careful in using them than with the English "please". For example, choosing between precor and precamur depends on whether you speak only for yourself or as a part of a group.
Quaeso or quaesumus is typically used similarly to "please", but with other verbs you should also consider other structures to express the same thing. Here are some examples from my dictionary:
- "I ask you for help." (= "Please help.") = Te auxilium rogo. / A te opem peto.
- "I ask you to accept the plan." (= "Please accept the plan.") = A vobis peto, ut consilium probetis.
You can also imply a "please" by using what I would call a soft order. Instead of saying sede! ("sit!"), you can say fac sedeas! ("do so that you sit!" or "please sit!"). Of course, you need to conjugate fac to plural when you address several people.
For idiomatic classical Latin, I think it is best not to translate "please" by any single word. Quaeso is good and simple, but you should also consider other ways to express the same. And sometimes you can just leave it out and express politeness in other ways.
Finally, translations of your examples:
- "Can I please have that?" — Licetne mihi illud habere? / Permittisne mihi illud capere?
- "Please go away!" — A te/vobis peto, ut abeas/abeatis! / Fac abeas!
There are also other ways, as indicated in comments and other answers. Let me mention some for completeness:
- sis, as a contraction of si vis; it can be very similar to "please", and is perhaps syntactically closer to the English "please" than quaeso/quaesumus
- amabo te (si) — "I would be delighted (if)", literally "I will love you (if)"
- verbs of permission (pati, permittere, sinere, …) can also add a tone of "please", and they can be used together with the other methods
To add to the other excellent answers, I would like to add a colloquial way of saying "please" that is very common in Plautus: sis (= si vis), which means "if you want" or "if you please." All the usages I found were with the imperative.
It obviously looks like the present subjunctive 2nd person of esse, but context makes it clear.
Here are just a few examples of this usage:
modo sis veni huc: invenies infortunium. (Amphitruo 286)
Vide sis quam mox vapulare vis, nisi actutum hinc abis. (Ibid. 360)
Cave sis malam rem. (Asinaria 43)
Occlude sis fores ambobus pessulis. iam ego hic ero. (Aulularia 103)
Two particularly common phrases are cave sis ("be careful now...") and age sis ("come now" or "and now...").
As a supplement to all the excellent answers above, I'll just point you to Eleanor Dickey's wonderful articles "How to Say 'Please' in Classical Latin" and "How to Say 'Please' in Post-Classical Latin." She's a professor at the University of Reading and has done a lot of work on (among many other things) politeness in the ancient world.
In short, they say:
—in Classical Latin, there was an ascending order of "please"s according to how major a request was: velim for minor requests, followed by quæso and rogo, on up through peto for very serious requests. (Of course there was overlap between each of these pairs; Dickey is just noting general tendencies.) —in post-Classical Latin, because the standard was to archaize, they basically kept velim, quæso, and peto, while adding several from earlier Latin: sodes, sis, amabo, obsecro, and oro, though of course shades of meaning and formality shifted over the centuries. (Rogo was used so much for a time that it came to be seen as inelegant.)
The verb quaeso was used to mean "please" in classical Latin. I did some research, and I think it can easily be added to the end of a sentence.
- Silentium, quaeso. (Silence, please.)
- Conside, quaeso. (Sit down, please.)
I'm sure other people will have more insights. But this could be a start.
I thought I would make an attempt to translate your examples into Latin. I would appreciate anyone correcting me if I'm wrong.
- Illumne habere possum, quaeso?
- Vade, quaeso.
I think the real answer to your question is that the Romans did not say “please”. The habit of attaching “please” more or less automatically to all imperatives is a phenomenon of modern European culture, which emerged (I assume) in courtly speech in the Baroque period. In the same spirit, classical Latin does not distinguish between intimate and polite forms of the second-person pronoun (as in French tu versus vous); this too is a fairly modern phenomenon.
All excellent answers.
I would think that an often-used polite formula like “please” would be brief, although I wouldn’t doubt that Cicero would have constructed whole nuanced sentences to express the idea.
One way to approach it would be to look at what it became. “Si tibi placet” became “si os place” in Castilian Spanish and “sis plau” in Catalán. These usages probably survive because they were commonplace in colloquial. Latin.