Thank you in advance.

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by panjandrum, Jun 24, 2006.

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  1. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    When I first came across this expression, when I first arrived in WordReference, I thought it was really strange.

    It seemed to me to be a way of saving effort. "I'll include thanks in advance so that I don't have to give thanks when I get an answer."

    Since then, I have come to realise that it is meant sincerely, and that thanks are also (usually) given for the answer.

    But still, it seems strange to me, and I am certain I have never used an anticipatory thanksgiving in any letter or e-mail I have sent.

    I am now wondering if this is a cultural phenomenon?
    Is it something that I don't do because of where I live?
    Is it something that I don't do because I am me?

    Would you usually say "Thanks in advance," where you are:
    ... in business communications,
    ... in personal letters,
    ... in e-mails.
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    How does this differ from the ending of many a business letter,

    "Thank you for your kind attention."

    This presupposes that the reader will provide attention, kind or otherwise, to the contents of the letter.
  3. belén

    belén Senior Member

    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca
    In Spanish it is very normal to say "gracias por adelantado" (literally "thank you in advance") and it really means "I thank you because I know you are going to take the effort of answering my question, my letter ..."
  4. maxiogee Banned

    No, what it presupposes is that the reader has read all the way to the end, and if they haven't then the phrase doesn't get seen. :D
  5. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    But since I am among the "thank-you-in-advance" ones, I have to say that it's because I think no one is supposed to help me or something. So I am grateful indeed whenever I ask someone for something and I get help - an answer in the case of WR. And I also post a second thanks after the answer, it is normal to me :)

  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    My sense is the same as Tony's, back a post or two.

    I'll thank you for reading my letter, perhaps, but I won't thank you for answering until you have answered. What an ingrate.

    I really don't want to discourage anyone from what they consider to be a genuine courtesy, but consider these views:

    Alternatively, the sales pitch.
  7. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    In Russia, it's absolutely normal to say, Заранее спасибо! - and after you have received the help you've asked for, you should thank those who helped you once more.

    Well, I usually use "Thanks in advance" in formal contexts, for example, when I am writing to my Internet service provider with some question.:) In informal contexts, I normally say, just "Thanks".
    Of course, if I thank somebody 'in advance', I thank them afterwards for what they've done for me. And I've never felt this form of courtesy as something odd, so I was rather surprised to see this topic.:)
  8. Dandee

    Dandee Senior Member

    Argentina, español
    I think that to say "Thank you in advance" is a fine or subtle way to motivate to whom you have asked for something to give the answer/reply you need.
    Excuse my poor english.
  9. cubaMania Senior Member

    panjandrum, I'm glad you opened this subject. I have thought of doing so many times. As a USA speaker of English, when I see "Thanks/thank you in advance" on a request for a favor my first reaction is "Well that's presumptuous!" followed by "Are they so lazy they don't want to have to express appreciation if I do them this favor? or are they trying to manipulate me?"

    In these forums, however, I have noticed that large numbers of native speakers of Spanish (and possibly of other languages as well) use the equivalent in their native language, "gracias por adelantado" or "gracias de antemano" so when I read "thanks/thank you in advance" from someone whose native language is not English, I put aside those critical thoughts and ascribe the phrase to cultural differences. However, now that you have posted, I can chime in and say that, at least to some people, the phrase in English gives a negative impression.

    I would not ask someone for some kind of favor and put "Thanks/thank you in advance", whether in person, by telephone, by e-mail, by letter, or by telegram. To me it sounds impolite. I would sometimes put something like "I will be most appreciative if you are able to...." but I would reserve the thanks until after receiving a positive response.

    Others may not agree. For instance here are two previous threads where some (not all) English-speakers express an opposite opinion:

    I'm in agreement also with maxiogee's observation above that ending a letter with "thank you for your kind attention" is not the same thing at all. That phrase thanks the person for having taken the time to read the letter.

    And Dandee's post:
    adds credence to the interpretation of the phrase as an attempt to manipulate--but in my perception it is neither "fine" nor "subtle."

    Even though the English-speaking population may be divided in their opinions on this subject, I think it is a useful thing for those learning English to know that some, perhaps many, English-speakers will react negatively to such a phrase when being asked for a favor.

    So thanks (not in advance) for bringing up this subject.
  10. Dandee

    Dandee Senior Member

    Argentina, español
  11. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    Hello there,

    In French, we have "merci d'avance" which is quite nice. But we have also this: "merci de <+ verb>". For instance "merci de donner suite le plus rapidement possible à ce mail". This phrase I abhor as it means you have to obey asap to the sender. This one is not nice at all !
    Don't know if I've explained the differences clearly enough, but they are really two opposite ways of saying with not the same intentions.
    Does it make sense?
  12. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    I don't think it's wrong or impolite to say "Thanks in advance". The author doesn't necessarily expect that you do this or that, but is grateful if you care to do it.
    Another phraze sounds much more manipulative to me. In Germany it's becoming more and more common to hear/read things like that:
    "Ladies and gentlemen. due to delays in traffic operations the train ABC will be about 20 minutes late. Thank you for your understanding." (Danke für Ihr Verständnis.)
    They no longer apologize for inconveniences, they just expect you to have understanding for any kind of problems! Well, that's kind of impertinent...
  13. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I agree, Cyanista! That sounds really nasty. Of course, I understand that things can go wrong occasionally, but still, why not say, "We apologise for the inconvenience"? It sounds much more nice!
  14. maxiogee Banned

    In this thread (and in the "Thanks beforehand" thread on the English Only forum) people are using the word "say" in relation to these phrases.

    Does anyone actually speak these words - or similar words of anticipatory thankfulness - in real life?
  15. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    It's exactly the same in the Parisian métro: whenever there's a delay or something the standard phrase at the end of an announcement is "Merci de votre compréhension" (Thanks for your understanding)...sort of unpleasant when you risk to miss your train because of that...
  16. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Are you asking about the use of these words in daily speech?
    In actual speech, the use of them depends on the situation. It seems to me that normally, we say words of thankfulness when it is supposed that the help we ask for will come a bit later. For example, such a phone conversation:
    - Would you please bring me that book we have to read for our exam?
    - OK, I'll bring it.
    - Thank you a lot!
    (I'm not sure if it's exactly what you mean).
    Actually, such polite forms of request are widely used where I live, among my friends. My circle isn't so representative for Russia, though.
  17. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    Just a matter of personal style, I guess.
    For example, whenever I ask for some information in the street I normally greet, then thank the person for his time - yes, in advance ;) - and thank again before leaving
    It is a fact it really depends on cases, though. You cannot thank in advance the whole time, but I like to do that when possible since no one is supposed to do something for me and I really appreciate the time someone is devoting to me

  18. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    That's interesting...
    I usually say to this person, "Excuse me...", and then ask my question. And of course, I thank them before leaving.:)
  19. maxiogee Banned

    Yes, words expressing thanks in advance.

    We say things like that too, but you are not really thanking them in advance for what they will do, you are thanking them for what they have said. You wouldn't say (or would you?)…
    - Would you please bring me that book we have to read for our exam?
    - OK, I'll bring it.
    - Thanks in advance!
  20. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Why, it's possible to say that.:) Rather seldom, though - but it sounds absolutely OK, even in informal conexts.
  21. Agnès E.

    Agnès E. Senior Member

    France, French
    Mmm... As Karine pointed out, Merci d'avance (said alone) is, in French, a very courteous and kind way to ask for help or to ask someone to do something. Most French foreros would translate it directly to English when requesting for help in the French-English forum, I'm afraid...genuily meaning it in the most polite and gentle way. :)

    The same people usually thank again after having got the necessary information, still astounded to have been granted the most efficient and fast support.
  22. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    So, what would you say? Should one avoid saying 'Thanks in advance' when addressing an English? And what's the correct form for a request?
    I'm in a mess, really!:eek:
  23. gato2

    gato2 Senior Member

    España, español
    Yo solo utilizaria "Gracias de antemano" si es algo que doy por sentado que la persona o organizacion a la que mando la carta va a hacer lo que le pido.

    Por ejemplo si pidiera folletos de propaganda de sus productos a una empresa, seguramente la emplearia porque doy por sentado que la empresa estara encantado de enviarmelos.

    Nunca lo utilizaria, en cambio, para pedir un favor de verdad.
  24. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    Panj, now that I've read the non-Romance languages people's response to that, I think yes, it's a cultural phenomenon, and I had thought that was usual for all languages. :) We say obrigado/a de antemão. I conclude by Etcetera's answer it includes the Slavic languages as well, if I can generalize. Agnès said it for all of us,
    Au contraire of being impolite or manipulative it shows the person is a well-mannered one.
  25. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    I am guilty of saying "thanks in advance". :) It can mean two things depending on the situation:

    - Asking something from a company of which I am client: there I am definitely being presomptuous by hoping they will do what I ask, because, well, they ought to (change the defectuous modem, send the information they said they would send, remove my name from their blooming spamming list...)

    - In business/formal e-mails: I see it as a sort of compulsory formule de politesse (can't remember the English for that!) It is just a way to conclude a message where I have asked something, and I simply mean that I would be grateful if they answer.

    I use it the same way here (the 2nd one I mean!): if I write "thanks" or "thanks in advance" when I post a thread, what I mean is "I would be grateful for any information you could provide on this topic". I would find it a bit dry if I didn't write anything.
  26. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks for the comments - your responses are very interesting.

    For many of you it is a matter of courtesy to include "Thanks in advance" in your requests. Does that mean you think that requests here (such as mine in starting this thread) are a bit discourteous?

    If I am writing, in English, to a hotel in Italy should I include "Thanks in advance" in my e-mail?

    :) Thanks in advance:)
  27. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    Of course not! When I didn't suspect this is cultural I would imply it be a personal style whether to include or not the expression.
  28. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    Well, to be honest... I wouldn't say discourteous, but when I first came to these forums and saw that some opening posts included thanks and others did not, I felt that there was something missing in the latter - something that would conclude the message, it could be a "thanks" or a "saludos", or even the poster's name...
    Then I saw that it was pretty common here and thought that it could be a different perspective on internet communication, or just a matter of personal style. I'm glad to learn that it might be cultural after all!

    On the other hand, 2 smileys seem a bit phony :rolleyes: :D
  29. gotitadeleche Senior Member

    Texas, U.S.A.
    U.S.A. English
    I say "thanks in advance" because to me it seems like a normal way to end a business letter, or any letter where you have requested something. But especially in this forum, with so many posts flying around and moving to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th pages so rapidly, I am concerned that someone will answer me, and I don't get a chance to thank them until later (because I have gone home for the night, weekend, etc.), and they may never see my thank you. By thanking them in advance, I know they will at least see it once, if they don't see it after I receive an answer.
  30. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Only in formal letters/e-mails do I thank in advance, and maybe occasionally on these forums since it's so widespread, but never do I use "in advance" in casual (or non-casual, for that matter) speaking. The above quote would never happen.

    What I think the case is (as a southern American English speaker), it's polite and normal and courtesy to thank under almost any condition after any request, whether it is granted or promised or neither--unless the person being asked responds with a mean "NO!" For example:

    Would you please bring me that book?

    Would you please bring me that book?
    No, I lent it to someone.
    Oh that's ok...thanks anyway!

    These are customary. But never have I heard in conversation:

    Would you please bring me that book?
    Thanks in advance!

    And I've never heard anyone thank anyone before waiting for the response, unless they're in some sort of mad rush. The thanking generally ends the conversation.

  31. ILT

    ILT Senior Member

    México - Español/Castellano
    In México it is very normal to use Gracias de antemano, and I don't think we use it in a manipulative way but it would be kind of rude to end a commercial letter without some kind of thank you note at the end. We even include warmest regards, best considerations or something like that (even if we have never ever had contact with that person before). As I read this very interesting thread I realized that it is cultural, as I've had written communication with colleagues from other countries and this phrase hasn't come up with some of them; maybe it is just a matter of personal preference too.

    Now, in daily speech, we use it too:
    - ¿Pasas por mí mañana?
    - ¡Claro!
    - Mil gracias, no sabes cuánto te lo agradezco (even though s/he hasn't picked me up yet).

    - Could you e-mail me that picture of XXX?
    - Sure! I'll do it tonight as I get home.
    - Thanks! (even though s/he has not e-mailed me the picture I requested yet).

    BTW, thanks for opening this thread ;)
  32. cubaMania Senior Member

    ILT, I think your two examples are a different matter. In each one your have received a positive response to your request. I don't see that as "Thanks in advance" I see that as "Thanks for agreeing to help me."

    Here's "Thanks in advance":
    I'd like you to e-mail me this picture. Thanks in advance.

    Here's "Thanks for agreeing to help me."
    Could you e-mail me the picture? I would really appreciate it.
    OK, sure, I'll send it tomorrow.
    Thanks! (s/he has agreed to do the favor.)

    It is obvious from this and previous threads that opinions among English-speakers are divided on the subject of "Thank you in advance." Expressions of gratitude are common in English as well. We could end our request by saying "I would really appreciate it if you could do this favor for me." That has an "if" in it, so it's not "Thanks in advance" which to some of us English-speakers sounds like you are assuming we will do this for you. The "thank you in advance" somehow implies that we are expected or obligated to perform this service, and strikes a negative chord in some of us.
  33. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I agree! I agree wholeheartedly!
    I don't want to say that, if a person doesn't say this 'Thanks in advance', I would consider them to be rude or ill-mannered. But if they do say these three words, it only speaks in their favour!
    BTW, the general tone of a request often shows the intentions of the person very clearly, so we can say whether in this particular case 'Thanks in advance' is used in order to 'manipulate', or it only shows the politeness of the person.:)
  34. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have seen several people comment on this when posting in English Only. I feel I should add a comment here:eek:

    It has been interesting to see that "Thanks in advance" in some form is a matter of courtesy for many of you. So, just as I hope that you don't feel that my request without "Thanks in advance" is lacking in some way, I now understand what's behind your "Thanks in advance".

    Please don't feel inhibited about writing Thanks in advance at the end of EO posts:thumbsup:
  35. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    In Poland we also use "thanks/thank you in advance". Most often in writing. This is quite normal for us. :)
    I use it almost always when I ask about something on this forums.
    Personally, I find it courteous and if I don't put it (or something similar) in my mesage I feel it misses something that I should've inserted.

    Curious, are there any other languages in which this "thank you/thanks in advance" inclusion is thought to be impolite?

  36. Poetic Device

    Poetic Device Senior Member

    New Jersey
    English, USA
    The only time that I thank in advance is when it has to deal with my business or I am calling someone for something and have to leave a message. I very often put at the bottom of the e-mail: "thank you for your time and cooperation" or something along those lines. If it is a phone call, I say that I apriciate them taking the time for me.
  37. ampurdan

    ampurdan Senior Member

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    Isn't the word "please" rather manipulative and sentimental?:D

    Seriously, I'm astonished to read that "thank you in advance" can be annoying for those to whom it is addressed. First I put it down quite often in these fora. Then I just put "thanks", which, after all, it's just the same: you are thanking beforehand. I also put "I would appreciate if...", which to me, it's just the same. Anyway, from now on, I will only use the third one.

    Thank you for your attention.

    P.S. I've heard several times the phrase "thank you for your understanding" from the headphones of public services and never really thought about its meaning before, but you're right, that IS presumptuous.
  38. hohodicestu

    hohodicestu Senior Member

    Mexico - Spanish

    I don’t like the phrase “Thanks in advance” because it sounds like, for instance, if you answer my questions I’ll thank you; otherwise I won’t; even though you spend some time in reading the posts, I won’t appreciate it because you didn’t respond. So instead of “Thanks is advance” I would just simply use “Thank you”.

  39. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Thanks (post factum) for raising an issue that I hadn't really regarded consciously. I don't use "thanks in advance," but am not really bothered by people who do-- it's obviously a convention like the "thanks for not smoking" signs you see in the U.S.

    I too don't see the logic in it-- taken at face value, it's a contradiction in terms. One would as soon admonish someone not to do something after it had happened.
  40. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    I use this when I'm in the French-English forum. It seemed to be one of those formulae for politeness in French. I don't use it in English though. Now that I think of it, it does strike me as a bit presumptuous. I'll take KaRiNe's word that it doesn't give offense in French.:p
  41. geve

    geve Senior Member

    France, Paris
    France, French
    And I blame Panjandrum for having raised the issue... Now I can't use "thanks in advance" without seeing that it is presomptuous.
    Once you've thought about the meaning behind words that you used to say mechanically, there is no turning back: the meaning is there, always!! (I am not seriously blaming you Panj :) This could have happened any time of course, just like I can't hear "Thank you for your understanding" in the subway without smirking)

    I would so like the same thing to happen to shop assistants with their favourite sentence when a client enters the shop: "Je vous laisse faire un tour ?" (= "I let you do a tour" - to which I always want to reply "Why, will I be charged for the second tour of the shop?")
  42. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Please don't stop using the courtesies that you feel are appropriate.

    Now that I realise this is a genuine cultural thing, I read it in the way it was intended. Such civilised niceties don't always bear close inspection. I mean, I'm not really
    though of course I do mean my post
  43. alisonp Senior Member

    English - UK
    What I'm surprised not to see mentioned here is the case in which I and a lot of people I know use "TIA" (which equally can be interpreted as "thanks in anticipation" - less presumptuous, because you're hoping rather than expecting :)). I subscribe to a lot of translation-related mailing-lists, and we're always asking questions along the lines of "what do you think would be a good translation for XXX?". Some people feel they have to reply with a thank-you to every single person's answer, which then causes a lot of "dross" posts, which annoys some people because it increases the number of useless emails they end up opening, and then *they* write annoyed emails to all the list members saying "Do you really have to send an email that just says "Thanks"?" ... and so on and so forth.

    So, most of us just put "TIA" when we're asking a favour, and reply to people's comments only when they've raised additional points we need to pick up on. It makes life smoother for everyone.
  44. Silvia B

    Silvia B Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    Alison you are right.

    I did not read the whole thread, anyway I think that thanking in advance avoids the necessity of sending new mail/messages later and, in my opinion, it is also a polite way to ask for a favour. Like: I know you will be spending time to read my message / help me, so I want to thank you now already.

    I use it very often (dare say always) and I feel it is used with courtesy, to let people know that you really appreciate their help and that it is very kind of them to answer as soon as possible with the same courtesy.

    While at work it is almost essential...
  45. maxiogee Banned

    I must say, I would prefer a sincere 'thank you' after the event than one which I felt was given in advance to 'encourage' a prompt response.
    I will respond to a request when I am able, or when I have consulted my reference books.
    Asking nicely won't get me to do it sooner, not asking nicely won't slow my response.
  46. Silvia B

    Silvia B Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    You read it in the wrong way, Maxiogee. It is just to make them feel useful and kind to do what they are doing. It's a kind way to ask for something, to let them know you appreciate their effort, just that.
    Then I added this because I felt people feel glad when they are treated well, and, even if you may think it is not true, they will help kind people before others.
    That's a fact.
    Or an opinion?

    ps. I am coming to Dublin in a week time! Sorry, I am just too happy...
  47. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    I don't expect a person from a different culture of mine to use the expressions I - or any other person from my culture does. So, using: thanks in advance, thanks, and even when there is no thanks I still help the very same way I always do if I am able to do it.:)
  48. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    If we are thinking of polite automatic phrases or expressions, as Geve pointed out, we should avoid all of them.
    And so what? No polite way of saying things and a little bit less hypocrisy, maybe? What about "would you please..." doing something? (s'il te/vous plaît). What, if this is not pleasant for me? ;) I still often do it. Why? Because it's asked in a polite way, maybe. :) This is not presumptuous at all.
    As we are animals with social interactions, we still need to distinguish polite/not polite ways of asking things.
  49. Poetic Device

    Poetic Device Senior Member

    New Jersey
    English, USA
  50. maxiogee Banned

    Cross-posting :D

    --edited to display the thread and not the post --
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