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Saying thank you can be difficult in English.

Saying thank you can be difficult in English.

It’s not the words. (I mean, “thank you” — there. That was easy.)

It’s saying the right thing at the right time.

Today, I want to show you different ways to say thank you in English so you have exactly the phrases you need when you need them.

We’ll look at:

  1. Different ways to say thank you informally and more generally
  2. Different ways to show extra appreciation
  3. How to reply to thank you in English

Then you can thank me.

1. Different Ways to Say Thank You in English

I’ve decided to separate these phrases for “thank you” into two categories:

  1. The first is “definitely informal,” for when you’re hanging out with your friends in a cafe. Or by the canal. Or wherever you hang out with your friends.
  2. The second is “could be either formal or informal.” You can use these phrases with friends or even in most business situations.

Informal

Cheers!

“Cheers” actually has a lot of meanings, and one of them is “thanks.”

This is very British. It’s used to say thank you for small things — like when someone passes you the salt.

Example:

“Fancy a rice cake?”
“Oh, yeah. Cheers, pal.”

Thanks a bunch!

This phrase is a little stronger than “Cheers!” and “Ta!”

If you want to show that you’re really thankful, but at the same time you want to keep things light, this is a good one.

Example:

“Wow! You fixed my bike! Thanks a bunch!”

But you can also use this phrase with the opposite meaning.

So, if someone does something that’s caused problems for you, then you can use this phrase sarcastically:

Example:

“What? You gave the kids coffee? Look at them … Thanks a bunch!

Thanks a million!

This is more or less the same as “thanks a bunch.”

You can use it sincerely (but lightly) or sarcastically.

Sincere example:

“You’ll go get me a coffee? Thanks a million! Really. I just don’t have the time!”

Sarcastic example:

“A $100 fine for a bill that’s one day late? Great. Thanks a million.”

Informal / Formal

Thanks so much. / Thank you so much.

I often add “really” at the beginning to make it stronger.

Examples:

Really, thanks so much for covering my shift at work.”

“Hey, Joe! Thank you so much for Alex’s birthday present. I’m sure he’ll love it!”

Thanks a lot.

This is a classic. But the classics are sometimes the best, right?

Example:

“Hey! Excuse me. You dropped your phone!”
“Oh! Thanks a lot!”

Remember that we can say “thanks a lot” but not “thank you a lot.”

Another important point: You can use all of these with “for + -ing” or “for + noun” if you want to say why you’re thanking someone.

2. Phrases After Thank You – the ‘Thanks’ Extension

A lot of the time, just saying “thank you” isn’t enough.

Sometimes you feel really, really grateful, and you want to show that.

So when you feel particularly happy because of what someone has done for you, you can add an “extension” with one of these phrases. Use it after one of the “thank you” phrases above.

Informal

You rule!

“You rule!” Such a nice thing to hear from someone.

But what do you rule?

Everything!

You’re awesome!

Again — just so nice to hear from someone.

If someone helps you and you call them “awesome,” they’re more likely to help again, right?

You’re the best!

For some people, suggesting that someone is even better than your best friends and closest family might seem a bit too strong.

But don’t worry. This is just a phrase, and no one will think that you like them more than anyone else in the world.

They’ll just feel happy that they helped you!

I owe you one.

Sometimes when someone helps us out, we want them to know that we’re there to help them out, too.

That’s when this phrase will come in handy. It’s basically short for “I owe you a favour.”

(If I know that the person I’m talking to likes to have a drink, I often say, “I owe you a pint,” meaning a beer. This is how a lot of Brits like to show their thanks.)

I’m touched.

OK. This doesn’t literally mean that you were touched by someone or something.

“Touched” as an adjective can often mean “emotionally affected.”

So when someone has done something for you that you really weren’t expecting, and it kind of makes you want to cry, you can go for this one.

Informal / Formal

You made my day.

Obviously you didn’t actually make my day. I mean — how does someone make a day?

This means “You made today fully happy, despite what else has happened today.”

That’s nice to hear, right?

I really appreciate it.

What better way to show your appreciation than by saying so directly?

I can’t thank you enough.

This one sounds quite strong, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s because it is.

Definitely not one to us for small things, like if someone’s just made you some toast.

This is for when you’re really, really, really grateful.

Thank you for taking the trouble to …

You know when someone does something for you, and you want to tell them that you understand that it wasn’t so easy for them, but they did it anyway?

That’s when you can use this phrase!

Remember to say what they took the trouble to do, though:

I don’t know what to say!

Again — this is one of the big ones.

This is similar to “I’m touched.”

Use it when you really are surprised and very, very, very grateful.

Oh, you shouldn’t have!

This is another classic.

Most of the time, we use this phrase when someone gives us a present.

It’s short for “You shouldn’t have bought me a present” — even though we’re usually fine with the present. It’s just a ridiculously indirect way of being polite.

How thoughtful.

Use this one when someone has done something more than they needed to — something that shows that they care.

(Don’t use this for routine tasks or when you’ve asked somebody to do something.)

Example:

“Flowers? For me? How thoughtful!”

I couldn’t have done it without you!

For those situations when you’ve achieved something, and you really want to show that someone’s help got you there.

You’ll hear this one a lot at award ceremonies like the Oscars.

3. How to Reply to Thank You

Informal

No worries!

No worries! It’s OK. Everything’s good.

I use this one a lot. I like it because it keeps everything light and informal, which is just what you need sometimes.

No … Thank YOU!

This is like taking the thank you and giving it back to the other person.

I think in some cultures and some situations this might not be the most respectful thing, but in the right (friendly) environment, this can be just perfect.

Informal / Formal

You’re welcome.

The absolute classic!

You’ve probably been using this one for years now, so you might want to try out some of the other phrases for a while.

This one will still be here when you want to come back to it.

Here are some alternatives:

Don’t mention it.

Not at all!

It’s nothing.

That’s all right.

It’s my pleasure.

This one is a little like the others on this list, but don’t use it for simple things, like when someone thanks you for passing the salt.

Save this one for the bigger favours. Like when someone thanks you for driving them to the station. Or for building them that space ship they’ve always wanted so they can finally go and check out that restaurant on Saturn.


In places like the US, the UK and Australia, it’s very, very common to thank people — even for the smallest things. We just like doing it.

In other cultures, it’s not so common, and people only thank each other when they’re especially grateful.

What about where you’re from?

Do people say thank you a lot in your country? Or is it something you only do on special situations?

Let me know in the comments! It’s great to hear about how things work around the world!

6 thoughts on “Saying thank you can be difficult in English.

  1. Thanks a lot for this article! It’s really useful!
    I’m from Ukraine. And here we also like thanksgiving for people, who have done something good for us: from the smallest favors to the greatest help!

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