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Is "you are welcome" more polite than "no problem"?

What is the general proper reply to a thank-you?

  • 20
    I wish I could downvote the close vote. – J.R. Sep 11 '14 at 16:05
  • @J.R. I can see why you feel that way, however a Google search on "no problem versus you are welcome" returns this on the first page: When should “no problem” replace “you're welcome” as a response to “thank you”?. PS: I wasn't one of the close voters. – Masked Man Sep 12 '14 at 12:22
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    @Happy - ELL was designed for the learner, with answers applicable to the learner. A similar question may have been asked on ELU, but that doesn't mean it can't be asked here. We can't have it both ways; we can't tell a learner, "You should ask your questions on ELL vice ELU," then vote to close when there happens to be a related question on ELU. More importantly, these close votes were cast without a comment, and the reason given was "Primarily Opinion Based" – not "Answer can be found on Google." Ironic how we'd close one of our own for that reason, yet the ELU question has ~70 upvotes. – J.R. Sep 12 '14 at 15:00
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    @J.R. These close votes are discouraging learners from posting questions. I guess a language learner should be given an opportunity to ask any type of question. People should stop nitpicking about it being a general reference question or an off topic question. – asterisk Sep 13 '14 at 19:27
  • @asterisk - Close votes shouldn't discourage a learner from asking questions; they should encourage a learner to ask on-topic questions with enough detail that these questions can be answered, and to do some research elsewhere first. There needs to be a balance. Users should be discouraged from asking a question when a quick thesaurus or Google search would provide a satisfactory answer. Answers take time to write; if dictionaries or Google can answer a question, get answers there. Save ELL for the harder and trickier stuff, and be sure to say what you found when you did initial research. – J.R. Sep 14 '14 at 6:56

12 Answers 12

26

First of all, this is always contracted "You're welcome" and is THE best response to thanks in any situation (NOT: you are, which would sound robotic)

No problem is quite familiar and not as "social" as you're welcome. An even more familiar version of this is no sweat.

Don't mention it is quite appropriate instead of you're welcome. If you went to significant trouble and someone thanks you, you can also respond with No trouble at all or my pleasure.

  • 9
    +1. I would like to add for completeness that for anyone speaking in British English, in my opinion "no sweat" would be quite an unusual/out of place expression to use (the others are all perfectly fine over here). Instead try "no worries" for a similarly informal response. – niemiro Sep 11 '14 at 17:29
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    It's not always contracted as you're welcome, just the vast majority of the time. In a formal register and with an intensifier it is assuredly not "robotic" to say something like you are quite welcome. Though of course it would be equally appropriate to use you're in that situation. – Esoteric Screen Name Sep 12 '14 at 11:38
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    I would second that; for example in slightly more formal work-related emails I would tend to avoid contractions in general and thusly also in "you are welcome". There's also a use/mention distinction aspect, can be used for pragmatic (as opposed to semantic) reasons, or in edge cases where disbelief is expressed by the other party. "Well that didn't sound very convincing." -- "By I meant it! You are quite welcome, anytime, my friend!" – Cornelius Sep 12 '14 at 18:01
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    I would downvote this, but I'm still a little short on rep. "You're welcome" is definitely not THE best in all situations. It works in all situations, but there is often a slightly better option, as nearly all of these other answers point out. – DCShannon Sep 12 '14 at 18:52
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    +1 for No Worries, I think it's more polite than no sweat – JMK Sep 12 '14 at 19:59
8

Just my personal opinion, You're welcome may be too formal in some cases, specially if it is not a workplace conversation. I've never seen anyone saying "No Problem" while talking to a client (Someone you're selling something to). In such cases I believe one should stick to "You're welcome." "No Problem" though an apt response, does not sound as gratifying as "You're welcome".

Some other responses could be "Sure!" or "You bet!". These two, as I understand make you sound more personable and should be used professionally only if you're very familiar with the other person. It has worked well for me around in Midwest and down south (mostly Texas). The location in this context could be important as well.

6

"You're welcome." is always a correct response. "No problem." is fine for informal interactions, but I prefer to say "My pleasure." instead. It seems more friendly to me than "no problem".

  • 1
    And of course, "my pleasure" is short for "It was my pleasure" which is equally as formal as "You're welcome" in my book. – Jim Sep 11 '14 at 17:26
  • "My pleasure" is just my personal preference, and it is not nearly as common as "no problem". I have been adjusting my language to be more positive. Saying "oh don't bother thanking me - I didn't put that much effort into it." seems less positive than "I enjoyed helping you". – ColleenV Sep 11 '14 at 17:39
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    @ColleenV: On the flip side, it also says "you are not indebted to me". – supercat Sep 11 '14 at 21:14
5

Nobody has said this yet, and I think it bears mention: "no problem" means "doing this for you didn't inconvenience me" and is often taken to mean "so you shouldn't feel any reluctance to make a similar request of me in the future."

Sometimes that's exactly what you mean to communicate. "Your paying my premium to rescue you from your fiasco was entirely welcome income to me! Let's do this all the time!" But I think more often than not, people err by downplaying the trouble they were put to by a request, and inadvertently set themselves up to be exploited by saying "no problem": telling people who ask favors of them that they should go go right ahead and ask more favors, instead of making clear that something was an imposition, but they did it anyway out of love, pity, or professionalism.

I have learned in business to never, ever say "no problem" unless I want a repeat performance of that situation. Someone comes to me with a rush job with no financial consideration? Asking me to bend the rules just very slightly for their benefit? If I indulge them and they thank me for it, the answer is "You're welcome", and never "No problem".

4

Adding to all the other good answers here, I tend to use "quite welcome" instead of "you{'re, are} welcome". Might be because I live in the UK, in the USA things probably happen differently … and even moreso in other countries.

3

You're Welcome

The vast majority of the answers here are very similar to the answers to When should “no problem” replace “you're welcome” as a response to “thank you”?, but this question is slightly different.

The asker wanted to know what "the general proper reply" is, not necessarily which response to use in which nuanced situation.

"The general proper reply" is "you're welcome". Sometimes another response, such as "no problem" might be somewhat better in the situation, but it can also be wrong sometimes, as pointed out in some of these answers. "You're Welcome" is always okay, even if it might seem a little too formal at times.

Note: "You are welcome" usually sounds a little forced. For a general solution, use the contracted "you're welcome".

3

To add one more option, "glad to help" and variants convey a positive and friendly response without diminishing one's effort, with similar connotation to "You're welcome" but a touch less formulaic and personal.

While I accept that it's what many have come so say, I find "no problem" somewhat circuitous, as it's more about the other person not having overstepped one's willingness, than about acknowledging or responding to their appreciation. As in - it was not a problem for me, or there is no problem between us because of this effort. Sometimes the effort really WAS a problem or difficult, in which cases "no problem" may be a social fiction; on the other hand, maybe it really wasn't much effort and this is trying to convey that. And often it's just an acquired local linguistic alias for the standard "you're welcome", said on autopilot to complete an interaction with no thought to it's actual meaning. So "no problem" is semantically very vague and at best indirect.

On the other hand, "you're welcome" said with some inflection to convey that it's not automatic, or "glad to help", are relatively direct and meaningful responses to appreciation.

2

Responding to "thank you" with "no problem" implies two connotations--one potentially negative and one positive:

  1. I thought sufficiently little of your request that I might likely have never noticed had I not been thanked.

  2. My handling of your request has not indebted you to me.

Additionally, in some business contexts, saying "no problem" may imply that the task didn't seem difficult. If the task was expected to be difficult, that would in turn suggest that either similar tasks might be done more efficiently by the person who handled the request than the person who would otherwise have performed them (and found them difficult), or that the person who handled the request misunderstood what was required and did not in fact do all the necessary steps. Either circumstance would merit investigation, and "no problem" may help trigger one.

2

Adding yet another possible reply: “anytime”.

The connotation, in my understanding, is that the other person may ask the speaker for similar help at any time in the future. It therefore carries some of the connotations of “no problem” and “it's been a pleasure”. I'd would consider it less formal and more cordial than “thank you”.

Regarding the first part of your question, I'd adapt to circumstances and the phrasing of the original thanks. To a polite “thank you” I'd answer “you're welcome” while for a less formal “thanks” I'd likely choose something less formal to reply with as well, e.g. the “no problem” you mentioned or the “anytime” from above.

  • i would write this as "any time" not "anytime" – ell May 20 '15 at 18:07
  • @sgroves: This blog post seems to support the single-word spelling for this use case, at least as I understand it. – MvG May 20 '15 at 21:30
  • agreed. i would still write this as "any time" not "anytime". – ell May 20 '15 at 22:31
1

In addition to these answers, I'd add that in situations where you haven't really done very much to deserve being thanked, "yup!" or "mmhmm!" (said with a pleasant tone) is often used as well, and is probably more common (at least in America) than either "no problem" or "you're welcome." This is a little informal but is frequently done even with strangers.

For example, if you hold a door for someone who is right behind you, or if you buy something at a cash register and the employee thanks you, this is probably more common than "you're welcome" or "no problem." I am not sure how polite this is, but you should know that it's common. (In the cash register situation, you can more politely respond "thank YOU.")

1

Two cool phrases that you can use, other than "you're welcome", etc. are:

Think nothing of it ;)

Don't give it a thought ;)

Although the second one can be used when someone wants to apologize but it usually sounds cool to say it in response to "thank you". Although don't forget the emojies ;))

-3

In American English, Hispanics often reply to "I'm sorry" with "No problem". This is because "No problema" is a Spanish idiom (used by Mexican-Americans and Central Americans) for accepting an apology.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=no%20problemo

  • 1
    I'm not Hispanic and I will often reply to apologies with "no problem" or "don't worry about it". However, this doesn't really answer the poster's question. – ColleenV Sep 11 '14 at 16:18
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    This is a ridiculous "answer." First of all, there's no such thing as "problemo" in Spanish - it's "problema." And we never say "no problema" - if anything we would say "no hay problema," which we use for "you're welcome" just like AMERICANS do. Second of all, the OP is asking about English, not Spanglish. Third of all, as a Hispanic, I don't appreciate the generalization - and a mistaken one at that. – CocoPop Sep 11 '14 at 16:24
  • @CocoPop Your reference to AMERICANS makes it sound like you're not in America. The answerer is referring to Mexican-American lingo, and they aren't going to use all the same idioms all the same way as elsewhere in the world. Here in America, it is not uncommon to hear a Mexican-American say 'no problemo' or 'no problema', although to be honest many English-only Americans might not even notice whether it ended in an 'a' or an 'o'. – DCShannon Sep 12 '14 at 18:45
  • @DCShannon CocoPop's bio page says he is in Palm Beach, Florida. As you probably know, most of South Florida's Hispanics are not Mexican-American. Whereas I learned my "poquito de Español" in the fields of California's Central Valley, where most of the Hispanics are Azoreans, Mexican-Americans, and Central Americans. (Obviously, the idioms of the Portuguese and the Mexicans are very different. So it is not very surprising to me that CocoPop is used to different idioms in Spanish.) – Jasper Sep 12 '14 at 19:03
  • I learned de nada in Spanish class for this... I always drew a parallel to "think nothing of it." – 2rs2ts Sep 12 '14 at 23:11

protected by J.R. Sep 14 '14 at 7:13

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