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I told a guy I knew that he looks good in a pink shirt. He told me: "Thank you, you're too kind". What is the appropriate English answer in this case?

Also I'm not sure if the guy's answer means that he doesn't believe me or he think otherwise or he just likes the compliment?

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    Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Aug 29 at 15:21
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    This is clear enough to answer. Please don't use the this canned feedback comment, write a useful welcome message
    – James K
    Aug 29 at 15:43
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    You're too kind is just "standard overstatement" equivalent to You're very kind. Aug 29 at 16:57
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    I usually say, "Sorry, I'll try to be more cruel in the future." Aug 30 at 16:59
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"You're too kind" is not meant to be taken literally. It is a hyperbole. Read literally, the person is saying "I do not deserve the amount of kindness you display to me." As an idiom, it means "Thank you for being kind."

If a response is necessary, you might say "It's nothing." This is another hyperbole: you are saying that the kindness you showed was such a small thing as to be nonexistent and not worthy of gratitude. This could be used if the person is thanking you for something that was actually somewhat significant, like a favor you did them.

If all you did was give a compliment about an item of clothing, you do not need to respond at all. Or, if you are trying to convey how truly sincere you are, you could emphasize it by saying something like "It's true, you really are [nice/handsome/pretty/etc]!"

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    Note that responses to "thank you" vary widely across age, location and culture, even among native English speakers. For example, in the context of an act of service or lending a favor, among older speakers it is common to answer "Thank you, [you're too kind]." with "You're welcome." Younger speakers may say "It's nothing" or "No problem". See also "My pleasure" or "anytime" as other valid responses. These are formally called phatic expressions. Aug 30 at 4:21
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    Please don't use "it's nothing". When someone is kind to you, acknowledge it. When you are kind to others, let them acknowledge it. Say "you're welcome" or "my pleasure". Saying that it was nothing is the rudest form of acknowledgement. IMHO. (Disclaimer; it is a usual way to answer, and it is seen as polite, it is also my personal pet peeve to correct people who say "it's nothing". It was something,) Aug 30 at 11:14
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    @StianYttervik pet peeve or no, "It's nothing," "No problem," and "Don't mention it" are easily the most common responses here. Discouraging learners from using the accepted responses is bad advice IMHO.
    – R. Barrett
    Aug 30 at 17:36
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    @StianYttervik It seems you miss the nuanced meaning the phrase "it's nothing" holds for younger generations (at least in US) - it's meant as another compliment, or affirmation of the compliment "I wasn't even being kind, that shirt looking good on you is objectively true, I'm just stating a fact" - obviously a bit narcissistic to claim objective knowledge of what looks good, but hopefully that explanation helps it grind your gears a little less
    – TCooper
    Aug 30 at 17:39
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    FWIW if someone says "you're too kind", the response of "you're welcome" strikes me as awkard at best. To me the polite thing to do would be to emphasize that it's not being too kind. For instance, by saying "it's nothing". Aug 31 at 15:38
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"You're too kind", as already mentioned, is hyperbole. They're simply complementing you for being kind and it's basically an alternative to or extension of "thank you".

Most of the ways you can say "you're welcome" would be fine responses. You can respond with:

  • "You're welcome" or "my pleasure": It can be slightly strange to respond in this way, at least or especially when they don't also explicitly add "thank you". This is because "you're too kind" is slightly different from "thank you" and these responses are only really appropriate to some form of "thank you" (you can't say "you're welcome" in response to a complement). But they're generally fine.

  • "[Happy/glad] to help": This requires that you did actually do some physical act to help them in some way (e.g. helping them carry something). If they were simply thanking you for complementing them, that wouldn't really classify as "help" and this response wouldn't really make sense. Other than that, this is a perfectly fine response.

  • "It's nothing", "no problem", "no worries", "don't mention it", "not at all" or "sure thing": These are all common responses and most people wouldn't think twice if you use one of those. Some people, however, consider those to be a bit negative and a partial rejection of the gratitude and compliment. The interpretation can be along the lines of "it was little to no effort on my part" or "anyone else would've done the same" and suggests that it was inappropriate for them to thank you or that you're insecure (neither of which you want to suggest). But, as I said, it's very common and fine for most people and it's only slightly negative.

  • "Of course" and "oh, anytime": These may convey a similar sentiment as "it's nothing" and similar phrases, but I would consider them to be slightly more positive. "Anytime", taken literally, means you'd be willing to do the same at any time, which suggests "it's nothing" (see above). "Of course" might also suggest that it's what anyone would do (similar to "it's nothing" and similar) or it could suggest slight egotism, i.e. of course you'd do that, you're just such a great person. But, as with the above, they're only slightly negative and they're generally fine.

This is quite a critical analysis of the different responses and you don't necessarily have to think about them that much. Most people probably wouldn't read anything negative at all into any of those responses. How the statements are interpreted also depends on where in the world you are, the demographic you and the person you're talking to are in, how you deliver them and what the other person generally thinks you're like as a person. So one could make a reasonable argument to just go with the one that sounds the most natural to you.

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    Many of these would be awkward (if not outright wrong) in response to someone saying "You're too kind", as you point out. I'm going to disagree that it's generally fine to say "you're welcome" in response to giving a complement and being told "you're too kind". Just to emphasize that these are really situation dependent.
    – spacetyper
    Aug 30 at 6:45
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    I've never considered "of course" to be egotistical - I've always interpreted it as saying that's what anyone would do. I'll use it with more caution from now on... Aug 30 at 7:57
  • @TobySpeight: I'd interpret it the same way - "Of course [I think you look good in that shirt] - it really is true!"
    – V2Blast
    Aug 31 at 21:47
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    If you want to be flirty, you can also follow up with a, "No, really!" or "I mean it!" and give them another compliment.
    – interduo
    Sep 1 at 14:40
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"You're too kind". is just a way to thank someone by saying they are kind. It's what we call a "set phrase".

You can say whatever you want in response. It has nothing to do with English really, does it?

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    Yes, you can say whatever you want in response, but there are only a handful of responses that are commonly used and aren't likely to be frowned upon by the other person. I might argue that how such pleasantries relate to one another, in both directions, is well within the scope of the English language itself (but others might argue it's more about interpersonal skills).
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 30 at 7:43
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    @NotThatGuy In fact, you could just smile and not say anything at all.
    – Lambie
    Aug 30 at 13:10
  • "You can say whatever you want" has such a heavy Motherless Brooklyn vibe :)
    – kubanczyk
    Aug 31 at 8:08
  • You could just say, "I meant it".
    – Roger
    Aug 31 at 16:02
  • The thing with set phrases is that they are often part of an exchange along common, customary trajectories; these exchanges are almost a ritual, and nuances matter. Deviating from the limited number of common responses can derail a conversation, and choosing one or the other of the common ones can change the trajectory (for example, nudge it into a more formal, or more cordial, or more sober/neutral direction). Sep 1 at 8:55
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One thing nobody has mentioned is that potentially no verbal response at all is warranted but just non-verbal one, like a smile, eye contact and nod while passing by.

The sequence of events was that you made a compliment, and the addressee thanked you for it. All intended information has been exchanged, symmetry in communicative and social terms is now achieved, and there is nothing more to say, really.

Of course what happens next depends on the situation: If you are passing by a co-worker in the office like it was 2019, and simply noticed their nice shirt, you didn't mean to really interrupt their work and start a conversation. If, on the other hand, you finally found the courage to talk to the person you have been admiring from afar for the past 6 months you surely will try to continue from here and add "You are welcome [to talk to me for the rest of the day!]. You know, it really fits with your blue Mohawk" or something similar.

In all reality such a remark is typically made when either the person or the shirt was an incentive to actually have a conversation, so the more natural response would be informed by what the incentive was. "Welcome, I've been looking for something like that, where did you find it?", "Thanks, it looks really beautiful on you" etc. would be plausible continuations.

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One thing other answers miss is the "other" reason why someone could say this: sarcasm.

I don't know how it works in other languages or cultures, but sarcasm in English can be quite understated. It can be a blank expression, a lack of voice inflection, or a dozen other things I sure don't understand all the time.

If you can recognize that it's said as sarcasm, or anything is said sarcastically, you can just refrain from responding. Otherwise the other upvoted answers here are correct.

There are ways to respond to sarcasm, such as using sarcasm in return, but that's generally an "advanced" course in a language/social setting. I'm a middle-aged native English speaker and I don't usually understand sarcasm enough to appropriately respond. But that's just me, too.

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    Possible. The only way to tell would be by the person's tone of voice, or if he says something further. But in context, there's no reason to suppose it's sarcasm. A says that B's shirt looks good, B thanks him. That's a pretty normal conversation.
    – Jay
    Aug 31 at 17:37
  • Yes, either or both speakers could be talking sarcastically. Telling a man he looks good in pink would often be taken as an insult (unless, perhaps, he's gay), and a response such as "you're too kind" could be interpreted in multiple ways. In any case, the tone of voice would have to be known to determine if either is actually sarcastic. This reminds me of an early Simpsons episode Stark Raving Dad where Homer had to wear a pink shirt to work and was thrown in the insane asylum as a result.
    – Phil Perry
    Sep 1 at 14:18
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I see three versions of "you're too kind" :

  • the most common one means "you're very kind" as explained in other answers
  • sarcasm was also mentionned in other answers and means "you're not offering much"
  • but it could also be litteral : a friend could warn you that you're being overly generous, but he would insist on the "too" and would probably elaborate so there should be no confusion.

Now if you want a "kind" answer you could say "my pleasure", but if you're really being generous then "I think you deserve it" could work, with a smile or else it could feel paternalizing.

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"Not at all" is the grammatically correct response.

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    I think "the grammatically correct response" implies that yours is the only correct answer, and that certainly isn't the case. That, and the lack of any justification for your answer, is likely why you got the downvote. That said, I think the phrase you suggest is a fine option, and I can imagine using it myself. Aug 30 at 7:17
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    I think what you mean to say is that "Not at all" would be excellent etiquette in this situation. Aug 30 at 8:38
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    Mark, grammar is the least of our worries here. I think you meant "set phrase". :)
    – Lambie
    Aug 30 at 19:02
  • Even though this contains only the first sentence of what could be a useful answer, I'm upvoting it, because I think "not at all" is the best response that has been suggested, and grammar has something to do with that (and none of the other answers have mentioned it). Sep 2 at 22:15
  • @MarkKeller I think your answer might have gotten more upvotes if it discussed the grammatical awkwardness of saying "it's nothing" (the most popular suggestion) in response to a statement about you. Or how about the fact that responses like "no problem" and "don't mention it" implicitly confirm that you are, indeed, being too kind, or that "of course" and "sure thing" emphatically confirm it. The other answers have given you a treasure trove of poor grammatical choices to work with-- it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity. Sep 3 at 0:08

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