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January 23, 2010 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Regional variations on "you're welcome"?

Non-native English speakers often ask me why we say "you're welcome" in response to a "thank you", because the literal translation (bienvenido, willkommen, bienvenue) sounds really strange outside of a greeting situation. Also, I hear often that "you're welcome" is really more of a North American phrase. So - is it really a NA thing? If you are a native speaker from outside NA then what do you say in response to a "thank you"? Or rather, since there's always a lot of alternatives (no problem, don't mention it, etc) what's the expected, normal response where you are from?
posted by molecicco to Writing & Language (78 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Spanish courses I've taken usually teach to say "de nada" (it's nothing) in response to "thank you," but in Costa Rica they say "con mucho gusto" (with much pleasure) instead. I like the Costa Rican version better.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:41 PM on January 23, 2010

In Romanian you say cu plăcere [coo-pla CHAIR-uh] which means "with pleasure" and it's the typical response to "thank you"
posted by jessamyn at 1:42 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ah sorry, I didn't make it clear in the question - I am looking for English language phrases. I'm trying to figure out whether native English speakers from the UK, Australia, or even certain parts of North America usually say "you're welcome" or use some other standard phrase. Thanks!
posted by molecicco at 1:45 PM on January 23, 2010

In Texas they tend to just say "uh huh", instead of "you're welcome", I was kind of put off by that until I realized it wasn't meant to be contemptuous.
posted by biscotti at 1:46 PM on January 23, 2010

"No problem" is pretty informal and nationwide, I think. There's "my pleasure" which sounds kind of old-fashioned to me but is what you often get from the staff at Indian restaurants.
posted by dilettante at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2010

I hear "It's nothing" or "No problem" or "Think nothing of it," or even just, "Thank you" pretty often in English.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2010

You might be interested to find out that 'welcome' used in this sense isn't very old, apparently. From the OED:

d. you are (or you're) welcome: a polite formula used in response to an expression of thanks.
first recorded use: [1907 W. W. JACOBS Short Cruises ii. 34 ‘Thank you,’ said the girl, with a pleasant smile. ‘You're quite welcome,’ said the skipper.]
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:50 PM on January 23, 2010

Oh yeah - and here's a silly "get off my lawn!" article from the UK that lists "you're welcome" as an annoying Americanism. So there's perhaps something to the idea that it's a NA phenomena.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:53 PM on January 23, 2010

Yeah, the "uh huh" across the South is a bit disconcerting until you get used to it.

"Not at all" is a fairly common English variant (along the same lines as de rien, I suppose) and you'll sometimes hear it repeated: "not at all, not at all".
posted by holgate at 1:53 PM on January 23, 2010

I've heard "No Worries" from Australians and New Zealanders.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:53 PM on January 23, 2010

When I travel south of the border (down into the USA) I often hear 'Uh-huh' in response to my 'Thanks you'. And not just in Texas (since I've never been to Texas).

And like Biscotti, at first I was taken aback, because it sounds a little dismissive to my cultural conditioning, but it must just be the local vernacular.
posted by Sustainable Chiles at 1:56 PM on January 23, 2010

In Finland, they say "ole hyvä" ("be good"). Why? I don't know... but I guess it's a good piece of general life advice.
posted by Crane Shot at 2:00 PM on January 23, 2010

I personally say "No worries".. I think I picked that up in Northern California. I've also heard "It's my pleasure" in addition to the other phrases people have already mentioned.
posted by nat at 2:03 PM on January 23, 2010

Not something I've really paid much attention to, but they tend to cluster around the idea that a person hasn't put themselves out. So, you might hear:

"No problem, love."
"It's alright, love."
"It's no hassle, love."

But you would only really get a response if you were actually thinking them for something. I don't know if there is a customary response to a customary "thank you". Normally it's just a goodbye or even sometimes mutual thank you, which probably sounds weirder than it is, but hey.

Uh, this is northern England, don't know about elsewhere.
posted by Sova at 2:03 PM on January 23, 2010

"You bet." The 'you bet' line begins just west of Pittsburgh, PA.
posted by fixedgear at 2:10 PM on January 23, 2010

Breaking down "it's okay" to "s'ok" (with tonal variations as appropriate) is what's gotten me by. Dunno if that's restricted to a region, but I've heard it all the time as a quick response growing up in Los Angeles. I suspect I might have gotten it from the Mandarin Chinese méiwèntì (沒問題), which is literally "no problem" but has always been taken by me to be the easy-going variant "it's okay".
posted by zer0render at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2010

Don't mention it.
posted by DeltaForce at 2:13 PM on January 23, 2010

UK: "You're welcome" is the usual, polite response to thank you.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:16 PM on January 23, 2010

I've lived in Texas since I was about two, and the "uh-huh" is pretty uncommon. I take it not so much as dismissive, but... lethargic? I guess you can't say "uh-huh" very enthusiastically. "Yup," however, can be said as enthusiastically as one likes. That one is fairly common.
posted by cmoj at 2:16 PM on January 23, 2010

"Of course."
posted by asuprenant at 2:16 PM on January 23, 2010

I find myself using "no problem" and "not a problem" a lot in response to "thank you", and occasionally "of course". I think I've only really used "you're welcome" in more formal or professional settings, but it has always seemed a bit weird to me.

Raised in South Texas, if you're keeping track of regions.
posted by MuChao at 2:24 PM on January 23, 2010

Boston: [cold, indifferent stare]
posted by ewiar at 2:27 PM on January 23, 2010 [7 favorites]

Grew up in Ohio. Used "No problem, You're Welcome, Don't mention it"

Live in Seattle now. I hear 'No worries" most of the time now.
posted by johnstein at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2010

"Not at all."

"My pleasure" or "It's my pleasure."

I heard "Sure thing" in Iowa.
posted by wryly at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2010

Or for very colloquial Australian, "No wukin furries"
posted by Admira at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sometimes I'll just say "sure" or "glad to help!".
posted by kylej at 2:35 PM on January 23, 2010

... abbreviated to "no wuckas" (as we do)
posted by nonspecialist at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had no clue "uh huh" was a regional thing. I'm southern, living in New England now. Guess I'll have to watch myself more closely.
posted by quodlibet at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2010

sorry, on preview: "no wuckin furries" abbreviates to "no wuckas". Seriously.
posted by nonspecialist at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great responses, thank you! I had been told that "not at all" was a common British response, but wasn't really sure. And responding to "thank you" with another "thank you" seems much less strange than in German, where they follow "danke" with "bitte" meaning "please". Boston seems like a fine place.
posted by molecicco at 2:42 PM on January 23, 2010

Man, I say "uh huh" all the time and I hope I don't come off as a lazy hick, I didn't realize it wasn't universal until recently. I say it pretty enthusiastically though, so maybe that helps.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 3:08 PM on January 23, 2010

Boston: [cold, indifferent stare]

And occasionally, "fuck you". (Seriously. Well, it only happened in Lynn and Saugus, so it may not count.)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:08 PM on January 23, 2010

Sometimes I'll just say "sure" or "glad to help!".

I'm in Illinois, btw.
posted by kylej at 3:11 PM on January 23, 2010

Hawaii: "No big deal" said with a smile.
posted by fifilaru at 3:14 PM on January 23, 2010

I'm hearing a lot of "no problem" or even "no worries" here (south UK), but I have reasons to suspect that my downstairs neighbor would say "Yea. Who'evah."
posted by Namlit at 3:14 PM on January 23, 2010

"You bet" and "Sure thing" are two I heard a bunch in Minnesota.
posted by aubilenon at 3:17 PM on January 23, 2010

Also, (and I don't think this is regional) I have a friend who always replies "Hey! No problem" which seems inexplicably awesome to me.
posted by aubilenon at 3:19 PM on January 23, 2010

oops, my fake html got stripped! That should have said: "Hey! <pause for a beat> No problem."
posted by aubilenon at 3:19 PM on January 23, 2010

I hate to agree with Miss Manners, but I agree with her that 'No Problem' is not a proper response to 'Thank You'.
(But am going to use 'No wuckas' next time my Australian customer calls.)
posted by MtDewd at 3:30 PM on January 23, 2010

Boston: [cold, indifferent stare]
And you go a bit north into New Hampshire and it's, "A-yuh", which is Yankee for "yes".
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 3:30 PM on January 23, 2010

Australi: no worries, not a worry, not a problem, no probs, you're right, or thank you / thanks
posted by girlgenius at 3:46 PM on January 23, 2010

To my mind, some of these responses have different connotations than others. Responses like "no problem" / "no worries" / "think nothing of it" indicate that something happened that incurred a social obligation — often a tiny tiny notional obligation to return a favor, but possibly a greater one — and is saying that you're acknowledging and nullifying that. The other category, like "you're welcome" / "sure thing" / "uh-huh", is saying there was no leftover obligation at all. So if I just bought something at a store, the second kind is appropriate, because the clerk and I are even. If I just held a door for someone carrying a load, either one might be appropriate, though I think the second would usually be more polite. If I just did someone a more complicated and difficult favor, like fighting off the velociraptors that had surrounded their campsite, then the second category could actually be kind of rude and dismissive. (Unless I'm the park ranger, in which case, "you're welcome" is appropriate again because I'm just doing my job.)

posted by hattifattener at 4:04 PM on January 23, 2010

In Québec French, we say "bienvenue", but that may just be an anglicism on our part. We also say "de rien", which rought translates to "it was nothing".
posted by MelanieL at 4:12 PM on January 23, 2010

Gah. That should have been: [...] which roughly translates to "it was nothing".
posted by MelanieL at 4:21 PM on January 23, 2010

I'm not familiar with "uh huh" and I've lived in Texas my entire life. "You're welcome," "no problem," "Don't worry about it," "Sure thing," are the most common things I hear and say.
posted by ishotjr at 4:40 PM on January 23, 2010

One reason why non-Native speakers might ask about this is because, in their language, there's no real analogue. This is the case in Korean, where "thank you" is met with, at most, "yes."
posted by smorange at 4:42 PM on January 23, 2010

I've heard "Anytime!" as another casual response.
posted by meindee at 4:47 PM on January 23, 2010

"You're right" in Australia. That's how it sounds, anyway (emphasis on both words equally), but I suspect it must actually have evolved from "You're alright" (ie "You're okay/That's okay"/"I'm registering no problem with you for the inconvenience to which you've put me"). It's also a common response to an apology about something minor, say if you bump into someone by accident: "Sorry"/"You're right".
posted by springbound at 5:17 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW I seem to reply to "Thank you" with "Thank you" a lot.

So when I found myself in German speaking countries, they would say, "Danke" and so doing the same thing and in English and without even thinking I would reply, "Danke".

Needless to say that didn't go over really well and & I was soon cured of it (at least when conscious--which is not 100% of the time with me . . . ).

Strange or not, danke-bitte or bitte-danke have a sort of rhythm and symmetry to them. But danke-danke is definitely a no-go.
posted by flug at 5:20 PM on January 23, 2010

Not a native speaker, but in Quechua, the most common expression for thank you is actually borrowed/corrupted from Spanish (yusulpayki, from "Dios se lo pague," may God repay you for it), and the response would be imamanta? "for what?" (what should you be thanking me for?).
posted by drlith at 5:21 PM on January 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

ha - this answers something that I've wondered about - I've heard people in the states use "sure" after you say thank you, and to me it's seemed a bit sarcastic and rude, but I guess it's short for "sure thing" which sounds more positive. Here in Toronto, many daily interactions with strangers will involve multiple thanks' and welcomeses; say you buy a carton of orange juice - you and the cashier will likely exchange them a) when you pay for the item b) when they give you your change c) when they bag the item for you d) while you are leaving the store. It's totally automatic, but sometimes it's hard not to giggle when I realize that I'm doing it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:26 PM on January 23, 2010

I've heard "Anytime!" as another casual response.

I've lived all over the US, and this has been my standard, informal response for years.
posted by doh ray mii at 5:32 PM on January 23, 2010

In Italy I've heard Prego (sounds, ironically, like "pray go") used as "you're welcome": if I've thanked someone and also as "welcome in" type thing too.
posted by selton at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2010

I've lived my whole life in the South of the UK, currently outer London, and I tend to say "not a problem" or "s'alright" (being a contraction of "that's all right", in case you were wondering). I don't hear "you're welcome" at all, but I wouldn't find it particularly odd if I did. For that matter, saying nothing at all and just nodding and/or smiling is just as common.
posted by ZsigE at 5:43 PM on January 23, 2010

Nthing the non-love for "uh huh." I am trying to train myself not to dislike it but it seems rude in that it doesn't match the politeness level of the "thank you" that precedes it.
posted by Morrigan at 5:43 PM on January 23, 2010

In New York (metro area), besides "you're welcome" which is obviously the standard, I say "uh huh" and have it said to me, especially in business-type situations, like in a store or something, or maybe on a non-personal phone call. But I'm sure it's said differently than the Southern version people are talking about, which I imagine to be lethargic and casual -- this "uh huh" is in higher-pitch voice, with a rising intonation, and somewhat peppy, but said while starting to turn away to the next person/situation.

I usually say "uh huh" when I feel like the other person's "thank you" is a little overboard in relation to whatever I did for them, and they're kind of wasting my time by launching us into the "thank you-you're welcome" dance, but since I have obligations under the social contract I'm making an effort and put a very polite and pleased tone on my non-verbal utterance. It kind of goes along with that fake smile where you just sort of press your lips together and raise your eyebrows.
posted by thebazilist at 6:14 PM on January 23, 2010

Up here in Alberta you'll get "Yep" or "Yeah", sometimes "Okay" in informal settings (restaurant, bar, clothing store)

"No problem," "no sweat," and "all right" are common too.

Waiter: Everything okay here?
Customer: Yes, thank you.
Waiter: All right. (or, "Okay! Great!" if they're campy or over-enthusiastic)
posted by Khazk at 6:24 PM on January 23, 2010

And you go a bit north into New Hampshire and it's, "A-yuh", which is Yankee for "yes".

And a bit East into Vermont a lot of people just say "Yuh."
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 PM on January 23, 2010

My favorite New Yorkism for "you're welcome" is "you got it.". I use it ALL the time now.
posted by gnutron at 7:01 PM on January 23, 2010

If you are at Chick-fil-A, you will hear "my pleasure" in response to "thank you."
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 7:56 PM on January 23, 2010

"No worries" from Aussies, which I love. There's also "No problem."
posted by Xany at 8:00 PM on January 23, 2010

Texas:uh huh

Yes! Virginia too!
And this is a little weird, but when you're a cashier in an especially friendly store (as in not the grocery store) you say "thank you" for saying thank you. As in:
-"here's your change"
-"thank you!"
I do this. I hate myself for it.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 8:00 PM on January 23, 2010

no, thank YOU!
posted by parallax7d at 8:30 PM on January 23, 2010

I'm in the south and I use "sure," "anytime," and "no problem" most frequently. They all mean "I'm happy to do you the favor."
posted by shopefowler at 8:36 PM on January 23, 2010

This made me think of an article in the ny times which describes "no problem" as the most hated phrase in reply to "thank you" and lists some other hated phrases.

I hated it a lot too and always thought it was rude\annoying when people would say that in response to a thank you but after reading this thread it's made me realize that a lot of people treat it as an equivalent to my pleasure or you're welcome. So that's sort of enlightening.

The only time I ever say "no problem" is as a response to someone who does something crappy and they say sorry even though they really aren't.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:19 PM on January 23, 2010

From NE Engand, and probably Scotland to "Nay bother" would be a common response. Meaning no bother, no hassle.
posted by prentiz at 1:30 AM on January 24, 2010

"You're welcome" is what they teach you in English class in Malaysia as the proper response to "Thank you".

Here in Brisbane I hear "no worries", "tis cool", "you're right". Heard a friend from Seattle use "mmhmm". NEVER heard "no wuckas", and my Aussie (Toowoomba) boyfriend has never heard of it either.
posted by divabat at 3:46 AM on January 24, 2010

Responses like "no problem" / "no worries" / "think nothing of it" indicate that something happened that incurred a social obligation

I guess this 'obligation' thing has influenced the way people use their "you're welcome" replacement phrases even in contexts where no such obligation is evident. Often, they are used just as phrases. Which makes me wonder whether specific translations from other languages into American English perhaps have survived in certain post-immigrant cultures. Some possible examples:

A typical polite German exchange would be "Vielen Dank" - "keine Ursache" ('thanks' - 'no [true] reason [to thank me]'); colloquial North German "da nicht für" ('not for this').
Similarly, in Sweden they often say "det var ingenting" ('that was nothing'); colloquial Swedish "tack själv" (thanks to you; often, it seems, uttered automatically even if there's nothing to thank back about).
One polite Dutch phrase is "graag gedaan" (equivalent to 'my pleasure'); colloquial Dutch 'laat maar' ('forget about it'), or about a dozen un-quoteables.
This is worth several field studies in rural Minnesota and the likes...
posted by Namlit at 4:22 AM on January 24, 2010

I read the English version as a short version of "you're welcome to ask for help".

The Danish variations: "it was so little" (work to help you), or "no reason" (to thank me for the help), "should it be another time, just ask" (for help again).
posted by flif at 5:15 AM on January 24, 2010

And you go a bit north into New Hampshire and it's, "A-yuh", which is Yankee for "yes".

And a bit East into Vermont a lot of people just say "Yuh."

And further east, in Maine they respond with something akin to the sound of somebody choking on a chicken bone. More like an inhaled "ayuh."
posted by SteveInMaine at 7:25 AM on January 24, 2010

Aaaand I just realized Vermont is to the West but now I can't correct it because SteveInMaine quoted it. Sorry, I do know where I live!
posted by jessamyn at 7:31 AM on January 24, 2010

I'm British, and would never say 'not at all'. I do, however, often say 'you're welcome', so I'm not sure about it being a North American thing - or maybe I've just picked it up from you guys! I also say 'that's ok', 'no problem' and 'no worries', which I think I have definately picked up from Australians/New Zealanders. I'm in my 20s, if that matters.
posted by schmoo at 9:00 AM on January 24, 2010

A sincerely expressed, "I'm glad I could help!" is my response when I know that I have made a genuine difference in somehow improving someone's situation. This is when I've made some effort, given some time, offered some expertise, knowledge, or wisdom gleaned from my own travails. Rather than making light of my offering or the other's gratitude, I take the consequent thanks as genuine and follow it with the fact that I am genuinely happy that I could remove a few stones from their, or another's, path.

I'm talking about something beyond a kindness such as holding a door for someone who's hands are full, for which an expression of thanks would get an easy and also sincere, "You're welcome!" -Michigan
posted by sparrowdance at 9:15 AM on January 24, 2010

Agree with Khazk about the Alberta (Canada) responses, but also "sure" and "any time". And I don't think that these are all limited to informal settings. It would have to be pretty formal for these not to be accepted. "you're welcome" would not be out of place anywhere.

It is worth mentioning that by my ear, all of the alternatives listed above from the US sound decidedly American and most would peg the speaker as non-local.
posted by kch at 10:28 AM on January 24, 2010

Mid-Atlantic US here. I say "no problem". "You're welcome" seems very formal. Oh, I use it all the time when IM'ing. The exchange looks like "thx" followed by "np"
posted by natalie b at 11:28 AM on January 24, 2010

My older, more ornery New England family members would tell us not to say you're welcome - because it's "prideful". I guess the logic is that saying your welcome implies you deserve thanks? They would just say thanks back or something along the lines of 'no problem'. In Canada I have picked up "no worries" as my default 'you're welcome'.
posted by SassHat at 11:58 AM on January 24, 2010

On post: I've also heard "ayuh" a bunch in central/northern NH, and in South FL it was "Thanks Y'all!" (add extra chipper enthusiasm). In Canada it's death by a thousand cuts, with pleases and thanks coming every which way. My first six months in FL and in Canada included slow and steady adjustment periods.
posted by SassHat at 12:03 PM on January 24, 2010

Hmm this is an interesting question - I would teach a non-native speaker to say "you're welcome" but I almost never say it myself - it sounds so formal and forced to me (and somehow presumptuous), I'm more on the "no problems" side, unless I am being very formal. I wonder if the difference between what they are being taught and actual use in younger people is confusing them?
posted by fermezporte at 3:45 PM on January 24, 2010

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