Is it about the person's age or the extent of my knowledge of the person?

3 Answers 3


To add to TRomano's great answer, "thanks" isn't as much stranger-friendly as "thank you". "thanks" is mostly used with family and friends.

When you say “thanks” to someone, it’s like a quick verbal pat on the back. The word itself doesn’t take much effort to say and it just rolls off your tongue. If you drop a pencil and someone picks it up for you, you’d say “thanks.” You basically would say thanks to just about anybody.

“Thank you” on the other hand is a verbal hug. It takes more effort to say and people often add some tonal emphasis on either the first or second word. Plus it’s more personal since it actually includes the word “you.” Rarely do people say “Thank you”, and not mean it. It’s often a genuine expression of appreciation and possibly affection.



The register of thanks is informal. thank you is normal register and can be used in informal or formal situations.

The social situations that allow for informality are varied. You have to determine whether your context would permit you to be informal. You cannot go wrong with thank you.

  • I usually say "Thanks in advance" here in ELL whenever I ask a question. Is that formal? or Is there any better way to say that?
    – Raj 33
    Dec 25, 2017 at 14:05
  • 2
    @Raj 33: Your question involves a particular social situation, the StackExchange forums. The informal "Thanks in advance" implies that the questioner is retreating from view with a word of thanks after asking the question, but on StackExchange questioners are expected to stick around to vote answers up or down, or to accept one of them. So, while "thanks in advance" might work well in many online forums, it is not really appropriate here on ELL.
    – TimR
    Dec 25, 2017 at 14:32
  • 1
    The formal way, as T mentioned, is "thank you". But either formal or informal would work here on ELL. Dec 25, 2017 at 15:00
  • 2
    @Raj33 the formal way to thank the answerer is to just upvote the answer. The comment box on the answer explicitly says "Avoid comments like '+1' or 'thanks'."
    – Andrew T.
    Dec 26, 2017 at 11:01
  • 1
    @Raj 33: I don't believe there is any need for formality, but that is a judgment call best left to the individual visitor. The neutral way is "Thank you", as I said, which serves both formal and informal situations. A somewhat more formal version would be "I am grateful for the help". An even more formal version would be "I would like to express my gratitude for {something}". But as I said, such markedly formal expressions of gratitude are not necessary here, though they could be appropriate in other real-world contexts.
    – TimR
    Dec 26, 2017 at 11:10

As an English speaker, the difference between "thanks" and "thank you" is minimal and they are used almost interchangeably. The only time I would distinguish between the two is in a formal situation where "thank you" should be used.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .