Learn French – How to answer "Thank you very much"

One of the challenges of learning to speak French well is mastering those little polite expressions that go a long way in making conversations flow smoothly and demonstrate fluency.

When someone says “Thank you (many)” in English, the most common response is probably something like: “You’re welcome” or some variation like: “You’re welcome” or “You’re ‘you’re welcome’. There are a couple of other possibilities, of course, such as: “Be my guest”, “It’s my pleasure”, “No problem” and “Likewise”. Certain forms such as “You’re welcome” and “Gladly” are socially neutral in the sense that they can be used under any circumstances.Others can be considered rather informal, to be used in casual conversations, and others more formal for those occasions when you want to be more polite.

In English the situation is similar; there are many ways to respond to “Thank you”, “Thank you very much” or “Thank you (many)”. Be careful. You must avoid at all costs the temptation to translate word for word from English. The results are inevitably very awkward and show a poor command of idiomatic French. Instead, you want to respond with a quick, confident response that will impress your listener and give the impression that your French is very fluent.

Let me first point out that in France, one does not say “Bienvenue” in response to “Merci.” This is a literal translation of “Welcome” and is often heard in Quebec French. Many people criticize it for being a bad translation. To avoid any negative perception, it’s probably best to avoid this word, even if it’s widespread and tempting.

Here are some good alternatives in all varieties of French.

“Not at all” is a short form, perhaps a little informal, but it can be used anywhere.

“I beg you” is an all-purpose form, a bit on the formal side. This is a very polite way.

“It’s me who thanks you” is a mouthful. Also versatile and a bit formal.

“There is nothing in that” or “Pas de quoi” (There is nothing in that) is a bit literary and very polite.

“No problem” is very informal and is considered vulgar. To be used with caution,

“It gave me pleasure” or “It gave me pleasure” is quite common in Quebec and rare in France.

“Thanks to you” or “Thanks to you” is a bit informal and short.

Which ones to choose? When it comes to recommendations, you can’t go wrong with “Please,” “I’m the one who thanks you,” and “No reason.” They are all very polite and good for almost all occasions. The other expressions are also quite useful, especially if you want to add a bit of informality. Like many features of spoken language, usage will vary depending on the degree of formality. “You’re welcome,” “Thank you,” and “Nothing” are short and punchy. They are good for quick conversations.

The only one I recommend using with caution is “No problem”. I’m not saying don’t use it. It’s just a bit colloquial and is best avoided if you’re not sure how to use it well. Note that it should be used when you actually mean “No problem”, such as in response to “Can I change my flight?” Just avoid it as a blanket response to “Thank you” unless you feel comfortable doing so.

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