grateful vs thankful

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Ume, Mar 28, 2006.

  1. Hello!
    showing or expressing thanks, especially to another person:
    I'm so grateful (to you) for all that you've done.
    If you could get that report finished by Thursday I'd be very grateful.
    After the earthquake we felt grateful to be alive.
    I'm just grateful that I'm not still working for him.
    I would be most grateful if you would send me the book immediately.
    pleased or grateful for something:
    I was thankful that the meeting didn't last long, because I had a train to catch.
    I wonder if "grateful" and "thankful" are always interchangeable.
    Any comments on how the two words are used?
  2. The words are sometimes interchangeable, but I do feel there is a slight nuance...

    To me, grateful is more of an internal emotion, something you feel deeply inside, even if it is not expressed.

    Thankful is a more exteriorized term, the desire to offer your thanks to a person or to God, to thank someone.

    Hope that makes any sense, in any case, if you mix them up, people will always understand. Just remember you can thank someone, but you cannot grate someone (or if you do, it doesn't have anywhere near the same meaning).
  3. shamblesuk

    shamblesuk Senior Member

    England, English
    One is always 'grateful for' something, not 'of' or 'to'. ie one has 'gratitude for'
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The definitions don't seem to allow for any difference.
    I think I would make a distinction in usage. I would generally be grateful for something that is positive, and thankful that something negative didn't happen, or wasn't worse. Looking at the examples you give from the cambridge dictionary, I find two of them don't sound quite right:

    After the earthquake we felt grateful thankful to be alive.
    I'm just grateful thankful that I'm not still working for him.

    I must emphasise that this is a personal impression - I can't find any support for this distinction in the OED or elsewhere.
  5. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I have a slightly different personal impression (although I, too, have to "correct" an example or two to make it work :) ).

    I feel that with grateful your thanks are directed to someone. With grateful you often specify to whom you're giving thanks:
    - I'm so grateful (to you) for all that you've done.

    Sometimes it's specified by a subordinate clause:
    - If you could get that report finished by Thursday I'd be very grateful.
    - I would be most grateful if you would send me the book immediately.

    But sometimes (and this is where my idea gets shaky) it's merely implied:
    - After the earthquake we felt grateful to be alive.
    - I'm just grateful that I'm not still working for him.

    In the first case the thanks are perhaps directed to God or to fate; in the second, to fate or to whoever gave me a new job. ( :eek: )

    With thankful I feel that the thanks are less likely to be directed to someone specific. The word seems a lot closer to relieved, or pleased. Luckily, the example given doesn't contradict this:
    - I was thankful that the meeting didn't last long, because I had a train to catch.

    You could replace "thankful" with "relieved" without changing the meaning much.

    There's something in this distinction in the corresponding adverbs, too:
    Gratefully is fairly close to the meaning of giving thanks (to someone):
    - All donations gratefully received.
    - Gratefully yours [at the end of a letter]
    - They gratefully accepted our offer of a lift.

    But thankfully has drifted and as often as not merely means "fortunately", "luckily":
    - Thankfully the rain held off until we got home.
    - Thankfully the damage was minimal.
    - Cases of polio are now thankfully few and far between.

    Having said all this, though, there's still a huge overlap. Thankful and thankfully can still be used in the same way as grateful and gratefully ("I am thankful to you for your kind help", "I thankfully accepted her offer of a cup of tea"), but they have a breadth that grateful and gratefully don't, and I feel that that's where their most common uses lie.
  6. Funny, Aupick, our opinions on the matter are completely opposite, I see "thankful" more as being directed at someone, and "grateful" as an interiorized feeling (although I agree the two can sometimes be interchanged).

    Umeboshi, I have no idea what you will make of all this! Good luck!
  7. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    I've just re-read your first post, and I hadn't realised, but you're right. They're opposites. Ain't that funny? I'm sure Umeboshi will conclude that, yes, they are interchangeable. :p

    (But what about the adverbs? Any concurrence there?)
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I agree with Aupick about the adverbs.
    I think that probably relates directly to my feelings about the adjectives too. If thankfully is moving towards fortunately, luckily, perhaps feeling thankful is moving towards feeling fortunate, lucky.
  9. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    I believe one is grateful to persons and thankful for things. I am grateful to God for sparing my life. I am thankful for the gift of life.
  10. roniy Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    "Thankful to you" or "thankful for you"

    Is there any difference between these two ??
  11. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    Neither are easy on my eye.
    The construction is not familiar to me.

    What is the context?
    Where is the phrase to be used?
    What are you trying to convy?

  12. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    If I am thankful to you, it means that you have done something for me and I am thanking you (expressing my thanks to you) for that. I am thankful to you for doing something for me.

    If I am thankful for you, you are what I am thankful for. I am thankful to God for you, for example. I am expressing my thanks to Him for having let me meet you.
  13. Snowman75

    Snowman75 Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Australia (English)
    elroy beat me to the punch, but I've already written my reply so I might as well post it:

    Both phrases can work in the right context, but they have different meanings:

    "I'm so thankful to you for all the help you've given me." :tick:
    Here I am thanking you for something you have done.

    "I'm so thankful for you. Now that I have you I'll never let you go." :tick:
    Here I am grateful that I have you. I am not thanking you, I'm thanking someone else (such as a higher power) for bringing you to me.

    You could also say: "I'm thankful for this doughnut":tick: , but never "I'm thankful to this doughnut":cross:
  14. azz Senior Member

    Can one use:
    a. Thank you that you helped me.
    instead of:
    b. Thank you for helping me.
  15. cufnc Senior Member

    Southern California, USA
    English, Hindi
    Nope. It doesn't sound right. You could use "Thank you for the help," though. You can also use "thanks" instead of "thank you" in informal situations.
  16. TimLA

    TimLA Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English - US
    I agree with cufnc. It's a bit awkward. The the two suggestions are perfect.

    Other possibilities would include:

    Thank you for that.
    Thanks for that.

    Both are very BE - Used in Harry Potter all the time :))).
  17. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    With different expressions of gratitude, you can use that:

    I am grateful that you helped me. (I am grateful for your help.)
    I appreciate it/the fact that you helped me.
  18. cufnc Senior Member

    Southern California, USA
    English, Hindi
    "Grateful" and "appreciate" are not used regularly, though. You only say those worlds when you're really thankful from the bottom of your heart.
  19. Lucretia Senior Member

    1. I am thankful everything ended happily.
    2. I am grateful to the forer@s for their help.
    3. I am thankful to Pamela for warning me against marrying you.

    #3 is wrong, isn’t it? We can only be grateful to smb, but not thankful to them, right?
    Thank you.
  20. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
  21. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    For #3, I would suggest the following:
    "I am thankful that Pamela warned me not to marry you."
  22. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    English - England
    All three sound fine to me. I think there is a slight difference between thankful and grateful: thankful suggests that the gratitude is expressed, probably in words; grateful refers more to internal gratitude that might not be expressed.
  23. Lucretia Senior Member

    Thank you, folks.
    After some investigation (there's a wonderful site JustTheWord) my conclusion is: I am thankful = I am grateful to God, good fortune etc. None of the quotations (with a tiny exception) named the object of one's gratitude.
    Yours seems a valid point, too, Teddy.
  24. MiamianIsraeli Senior Member

    English Israel (originally from the US)
    I agree with the original premise. You can be thankful for something, but grateful to someone.
  25. helpmeplease

    helpmeplease New Member

    english/north america
    I think it is it is "I am grateful everything ended happily." #3 seems correct to me.
  26. deslenguada

    deslenguada Senior Member

    Both means the same but "grateful" sounds more formal.
    Do you personally think there is a difference when saying it?
    Thanks a lot in advance :)
  27. ivarias Member

    New York City
    Not really. These two words are pretty much interchangeable. But, I personally find the word 'grateful' somewhat stronger, than thankful. That is, with a little more emphasis. I also think that 'grateful' is used more for appreciation of material things, like money, for instance, than for, let's say, a good action, behavior, etc. Again, this is a very personal opinion based on my own experience.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2009
  28. Someguy123 New Member

    German - Germany
    I am thinking of different ways to thank people.

    I already have:
    - Thank you so much/very much (obviously ;) )
    - I (really) appreciate ...
    - This was amazing/enjoyable/terrific/wonderful/etc. (in special context)

    now I consider a phrase with 'grateful'. Afaik 'thankful' is only used in Thanksgiving-context.

    But I don't know whether to use "I am so grateful for you doing this for me." or "I am grateful, that you did this for me". Or is it used in a totally different way?

    Thank you in advance, and I hope this was the right subforum :)
  29. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Hello, Someguy ~ Welcome to the forums:)

    Yes, you've come to the right subforum. I've added your question on to the end of a previous thread on the same subject ~ lots of good answers above:)

    ~ewie, moderator

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