you are welcome - in BE

siares

Senior Member
Slovak
Dear all,
I'd like some help on 'you are welcome'.
I'd read that in BE it might have unwanted allusions, and would like to know specifically which.

I've got its usage completely automated, and might need to replace it with something. For that, I think I would need analysis of nuance, something like this post by Mahantongo on why it feels wrong for English speaker to hear 'enjoy your food'.

I am not that much interested in dictionariess and Ngrams, but in any connotations it has for BE speakers, especially those who grew up without hearing it.

I would also like suggestions on what to replace it with: I can't stand 'no problem' and 'no worries', I would like an expression which implies that what I did I did gladly - and ideally something I can use in business meetings with BE speakers, as well as outside of them.

Thank you.

PS: I'd read other threads.
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It would be helpful, particularly for new readers, if you gave an example of the context in which "You're welcome" is used. :thumbsup:
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    BE speaker: Thank you for showing us your factory.
    Foreign host: You are welcome.

    BE speaker: Thank you for choosing our company.
    Foreign host: You are welcome.

    BE speaker: Thank you for coming with me to emergency department.
    Me: You are welcome.

    The trouble with specific context is, that I will not be able to internalise different expressions for different situations, I don't think..
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I'd read that in BE it might have unwanted allusions, and would like to know specifically which.
    Where did you read this, and did this source give no clue?
    I can't think of any situation where "you're welcome" would have "unwanted allusions".
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I'd like some help on 'you are welcome'.
    I'd read that in BE it might have unwanted allusions, and would like to know specifically which.
    I don't know that it does have "unwanted allusions" in BE. :confused:

    As with many expressions of a similar type, it's possible to use it in a deliberately sarcastic way, but if that's being done then it's usually perfectly obvious from the tone of voice and the context.

    The three examples you've given sound perfectly natural to me, except possibly that we'd use a contraction: "You're welcome!" :)

    People do still use "My pleasure!" as an alternative, although possibly not as frequently.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Thanks for the examples:

    Yes, "You are welcome." is incredibly annoying. All I want to do is hit the "foreign host" :D It has that deep insincerity of the corporate, meaningless, anodyne response to anything. To me, it says, "Yeh, sure, whatever. This is what I've been told to say when you say "thanks" - apparently, it pleases you."

    A: "Aaaaahhhhh! My friend has just fallen in the mincing machine!!!!"
    B: "He's welcome." :rolleyes:

    BE does not usually thank people for their thanks:

    BE:
    BE speaker: Thank you for showing us your factory.
    Foreign host: Not at all, I enjoy a walk around it myself.

    BE speaker: Thank you for choosing our company. <- this was a commercial decision: there's no need to thank anyone.
    Foreign host: We did it on price and delivery date [Smiles as if to say, "So make sure they don't change."]

    BE speaker: Thank you for coming with me to the emergency department.
    Me: [Shrug and smile.] It was the least I could do given what happened - you still OK?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I can think of circumstances in which 'you're welcome' wouldn't be an appropriate reaction to a word of thanks, in my view.

    Suppose you are a junior operative in a company and the CEO of its holding company, on a tour of the company, is told that you have done some outstanding work. If he thanks you for this, it would, in my view, be inappropriate for you to reply 'you're welcome', because that would be to suggest that you are frequently dispensing benefits which he has the pleasure of enjoying. In fact he is thanking you for doing the work, for which is is paying you, outstandingly well, and this doesn't put you in a position to patronise him.

    I think that when one is in a position of dependence upon someone, either financially or for their kindness, and you find yourself being thanked by them, you would do better, in BE, to reply with a more neutral formula, like 'It's a pleasure'.

    There are obvious social undercurrents here. I regard 'My pleasure', for instance, as overly casual.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    did this source give no clue?
    This was from BE source with good feel for the language, clues were not there. But anyway, clues come as post gut-reaction rationalisations; I trust the gut reaction.
    "unwanted allusions"
    In Slovak there is a version of 'you are welcome' which mostly waiters and shop assistants use, it is odd and disconcerting to hear it out of that context, it sounds patronising - I would not like to be tasked with explaining precisely how.:) Many people can't feel it at all.
    Then 'no problem' in any language has unwanted allusions for me (and several others) on purely individual level; with it I also hear "were there any problem at all, I would not have helped you'.
    BE does not usually thank people for thanking you.
    I want to reassure people that they are not indebted to me for what I did for them; quite the opposite - I am honoured to have been able to help. Is this not done?
    I suppose it is not necessary in business, but in personal communication?
    Not at all
    Is this neutral or informal?

    Cross post: Ok, my pleasure sounds good to me.. Is it OK for formal situations? E; No I see it is casual..
    How about 'It's a pleasure' - in the factory?
    And how does: 'It's a pleasure' go with the emergency department? It sounds so weird to me...
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I want to reassure people that they are not indebted to me for what I did for them; quite the opposite - I am honoured to have been able to help. Is this not done?
    I suppose it is not necessary in business, but in personal communication?
    Then be self-effacing. If you want to appear sincere, the last, the very last, thing you want to do is to trot out some formulaic response. People recognise these pieces of jargon. Think of something meaningful and personal - it shows you do care, are pleased and have not been inconvenienced.

    "Not at all" is neutral and both informal and formal - it can be used anytime.
     
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    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I want to reassure people that they are not indebted to me for what I did for them; quite the opposite - I am honoured to have been able to help. Is this not done?
    I suppose it is not necessary in business, but in personal communication?
    I don't think Paul can have been on the customer care course. :D

    Yes this is done, or it was where I worked. It's nothing to do with indebtedness, just common politeness. It can come across as a bit mechanical, but I suppose as native speakers we develop the knack of alternating "You're welcome", "My pleasure", "Not at all" or "Glad you enjoyed it [the factory tour]". I think I'd tend to use "No problem" more informally, but I have had it said to me in a business context and I didn't think it at all odd.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This was from BE source with good feel for the language, clues were not there. But anyway, clues come as post gut-reaction rationalisations; I trust the gut reaction.

    In Slovak there is a version of 'you are welcome' which mostly waiters and shop assistants use, it is odd and disconcerting to hear it out of that context, it sounds patronising - I would not like to be tasked with explaining precisely how.:) Many people can't feel it at all.
    Then 'no problem' in any language has unwanted allusions for me (and several others) on purely individual level; with it I also hear "were there any problem at all, I would not have helped you'.

    I want to reassure people that they are not indebted to me for what I did for them; quite the opposite - I am honoured to have been able to help. Is this not done?
    I suppose it is not necessary in business, but in personal communication?

    Is this neutral or informal?

    Cross post: Ok, my pleasure sounds good to me.. Is it OK for formal situations? E; No I see it is casual..
    How about 'It's a pleasure' - in the factory?
    And how does: 'It's a pleasure' go with the emergency department? It sounds so weird to me...
    Yes, Siares. The advantage of 'It's a pleasure' is that it explains your feelings - something to which you have privileged access.

    'You're welcome' is explaining to the other person his position - something about which you should hesitate to speculate when you are dependent upon him, in my view.
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I don't think Paul can have been on the customer care course. :D
    Siares, starts by observing that there is an opposition to "You're welcome." This was not plucked out of thin air - it is correct. This is the point to be addressed.
    Yes this is done, or it was where I worked. It's nothing to do with indebtedness, just common politeness.
    It is easily recognised as formulaic and cannot possess the attribute of "politeness", rather one of artificiality.
    I have had it said to me in a business context and I didn't think it at all odd.
    But the point is that the perception that it is objectionable is there amongst others - and this is the question to address.
    Yes, Siares. The advantage of 'It's a pleasure' is that it explains your feelings - something to which you have privileged access.

    'You're welcome' is explaining to the other person his position - something about which you should hesitate to speculate when you are dependent on him, in my view.
    Very perceptive. :thumbsup:
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I think it's important to remember that the tone and delivery of any of these responses, or indeed of no response at all, are far more important in terms of impact than the actual form of words.
    In terms of no response at all, just think of the difference between the person smiling shyly and blushing, and the person rolling their eyes skywards.
    There is a similar issue with the (largely AE) signoff "have a nice day". The reason why I don't particularly like this expression is that 90% of the time I have a hard time believing that the person gives a flying fig about how my day will be.

    There is a line in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" where someone (Arthur Dent) being thanked responds "It was nothing". The person thanking him (Zaphod) interprets this literally, and promptly forgets that Arthur has done anything noteworthy.

    Thomas Tompion said:
    'You're welcome' is explaining to the other person his position
    No it doesn't. "You are welcome" describes the speaker's point of view. If a visitor arrives and you say "You are welcome", you are saying how you feel about his arrival. He might love or hate being there, but it has no bearing.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    'You're welcome' is explaining to the other person his position
    This did it for me!! I won't forget this argument, precisely what I needed to overcome the proclivity to use the welcome thing. So it is actually more deferent (why doesn't spellcheck allow this?) to say 'it's a pleasure' - that fell into place with everything.
    "You are welcome" describes the speaker's point of view.
    I think saying 'you' is always subtly more going into other person's territory. It is probably OK in 'you are great' but less so in 'I think you are being insensitive'.
    self-effacing
    I don't want to do that, cause I don't like it from others; such as when to a compliment on, say, dress, somebody responds: oh this old thing?
    I want to feel and appreciate the 'thank you' - I love 'It's a pleasure' for this. That is, when I want to appear sincere.:)
    "Not at all" is neutral and both informal and formal - it can be used anytime.
    This helps - to me it felt folksy originally. I suppose I can use it in formal conversations riddled with thank yous, and then switch to 'it's a pleasure' when the conversation is less official/fast and there is more time to 'live the meaning'.
    meaningful and personal - it shows you do care, are pleased
    Last question, on the emergency context: it's a pleasure feels odd to me cause I am mentioning pleasure when the other person is in pain/trouble etc.
    Is 'pleasure' less jolly in English than it feels to me? And 'pleased'?
    In Slovak I would hear: I did it for you gladly. How does that sound in English (idiomatic or not)?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I think saying 'you' is always subtly more going into other person's territory. It is probably OK in 'you are great' but less so in 'I think you are being insensitive'.
    Note that this is quite different - those examples do indeed refer to the other person's behaviour, but "you're welcome" does not. Compare "You have lots of fans" or "You are well-liked". These do not describe an attribute of "you", but of the attitude of others towards "you", as does "you're welcome".
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Yeees.. I haven't thought it entirely through.. But I would like something like 'We appreciate you' better than 'You are appreciated here'. The first feels more inner, personal. etc.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I don't want to do that, cause I don't like it from others; such as when to a compliment on, say, dress, somebody responds: oh this old thing?
    Yes, well, I did not mean so self-effacing. :p
    Last question, on the emergency context: it's a pleasure feels odd to me
    All these things are context-driven. The "Customer Care Courses" of which DonnyB speaks are based upon a "one-size-fits-all" policy and should be avoided, hence my "It was the least I could do given what happened - you still OK?"
    I did it for you gladly. How does that sound in English
    It sounds strange. The closest in English would be "I was happy to do it."
    That is, when I want to appear sincere.
    ... and that is the point: When you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.:D People like a personal touch, they like to believe you like them - no formulaic response can reproduce that.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Last question, on the emergency context: it's a pleasure feels odd to me cause I am mentioning pleasure when the other person is in pain/trouble etc.
    Is 'pleasure' less jolly in English than it feels to me? And 'pleased'?
    In Slovak I would hear: I did it for you gladly. How does that sound in English (idiomatic or not)?
    I wouldn't personally use "pleased/pleasure" in that hospital emergency context: I'd be more likely to say something like "Hope you're going to be OK".

    "I did it for you gladly" sounds a bit stilted, but I've both heard and used "Glad to help/Glad to be of help!"

    I think it's important to remember that the tone and delivery of any of these responses, or indeed of no response at all, are far more important in terms of impact than the actual form of words.
    I agree. Any of these responses could come across as insincere. I think by far the worst ones are the awful fulsome scripted responses that call centres use, which are intended to be personal but which just come across to me as irritatingly meaningless.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    The closest in English would be "I was happy to do it."
    So I should banish the mental image of a person skipping and whistling (as they are helping)?
    I wouldn't personally use "pleased/pleasure" in that hospital emergency context
    Would you use 'happy'?
    This I would prefer not to use:
    [Shrug and smile.] It was the least I could do
    cause the self-effacingness - (especially the shrug:)) - I read as 'thank you-effacing'.
    BE does not usually thank people for their thanks:
    I agree with that.
    Would you please give contexts in which it would be plain weird to say anything in response to 'thank you'?

    Thanks for all the advice on insincerity, tone of voice etc..: I am not looking for something which will help me appear sincere, merely for words which will not as a default oppose the sincere feeling; either by being formulaic or feeling foreign.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I agree with that. "You're welcome" was not in use when I was growing up in the UK. I don't use it. In response to "Thank you for showing us your factory" I would say "I hope you enjoyed it" or something similar.
    Perhaps there are regional variations. I was aware when I moved to my current country that I didn't have the reflex of saying it automatically (a response is indeed expected here), but I certainly wouldn't say that I never said it. I find this "hostility" to the phrase quite surprising, to be honest.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Would you please give contexts in which it would be plain weird to say anything in response to 'thank you'?
    Possibly this will vary among BrE speakers. If I say "Thank you" for a cup of coffee (or something like that) received from a family member or a friend, I don't expect that family member or friend to supply a response to my "Thank you". Similarly, if a family member or a friend thanks me for something received from me, I don't supply a response. These are the conventions I grew up with. I don't think they are exclusive to my family. However, I have a relative who responds with "You're welcome" to my "Thank you" in this type of scenario. I find it formal and unnecessary. This relative is a BrE speaker, but she uses much more American English than I do (she's younger than me). "You're welcome" came into BrE from AmE during my lifetime. Some of us older BrE speakers, who remember a time when it wasn't around, can see no reason to adopt it.
     
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    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    DonnyB said:
    I wouldn't personally use "pleased/pleasure" in that hospital emergency context.
    Would you use 'happy'?
    I don't think so. It would depend on the exact circumstances, but your original sentence "BE speaker: Thank you for coming with me to [the] emergency department." suggests to me that it's a bit unlikey to be something anyone would say they were "pleased" or "happy" about. :confused:
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    For the coffee scenario, I would certainly regard it as optional, but one of the people in my family who is likely to say it is my mother, and I wouldn't say she was unduly influenced by American English. I can only imagine that there must be differences between families or regions.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    [...]You're welcome' is explaining to the other person his position - something about which you should hesitate to speculate when you are dependent upon him, in my view.
    [...]No it doesn't. "You are welcome" describes the speaker's point of view. If a visitor arrives and you say "You are welcome", you are saying how you feel about his arrival. He might love or hate being there, but it has no bearing.
    To contradict is explaining with no,it doesn't, suggests that the original hasn't been carefully read.

    Can someone believe that not being welcome doesn't alter his or her position?

    Who are you to tell your boss that he is welcome to your services?
     
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    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    My apologies - I should have said "No it isn't".

    Your boss (or anyone else for that matter) can't possibly know whether he is welcome. You are suggesting that we should never tell anyone that they are welcome, or pretty, or interesting.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My apologies - I should have said "No it isn't".

    Your boss (or anyone else for that matter) can't possibly know whether he is welcome. You are suggesting that we should never tell anyone that they are welcome, or pretty, or interesting.
    No, I'm not saying that, nor have I suggested it. I've tried to be clear that one should be careful of making such remarks in cases where it might easily be seen at patronising.

    Do you go about telling your boss that you think he's wearing a smart suit?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I agree that the context is important, and there are times where it is not appropriate to acknowledge a thanks, but it depends greatly on what you are being thanked for and the way the thanks are delivered.
    If I said to one of my staff "You've really gone above and beyond - thanks for a terrific job!" and they didn't say anything I'd wonder what their problem was. I'd find "you're welcome" completely normal.

    Actually I wouldn't have a problem telling my boss (or his boss, or the CEO) that he was wearing a smart suit, but I see your point.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Many thanks to all! (I mean it, too) Based on the above, I'll use 'it's a pleasure' or 'not at all' (this in any context including the emergency).
    I find it formal and unnecessary
    I'll keep this in mind for small favours especially.
    there are times where it is not appropriate to acknowledge a thanks
    I was thinking hard about this and the only thing I could come up with was when thanking doctors for trying, but failing to save a life.
    Please let me know if you had other situations in mind..
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is entirely cultural rather than language-based.
    In my world, to say 'You're welcome,' is a warm social acknowledgement of thanks. It certainly is not presuming anything at all on the part of the person I say it to. Rather, it is reinforcing my pleasure in having done something that pleased the other person.

    As for insincerity, that has little to do with the words used and all to do with how they are used.

    Picking another expression from above ... "Thank you for dinner." Yes, sure, it could be interpreted as "I enjoyed your food but the company was boring." But that's an extreme position. When my guests are leaving and embrace me warmly saying "Thank you for dinner," I know they are making the specific point that they enjoyed the food as well as the rest of their visit.
     

    MikeLynn

    Senior Member
    Well put - having read the previous threads, I must agree that the way people feel about the "you're welcome" phrase is influenced by their intonation, dialect, family, location... but I've been using it for a long time, and I believe that it's pretty neutral and broadly acceptable. On second thought, not being a native speaker I might be wrong :)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    When did 'You're welcome' enter BrE? I can't recall it being used in BrE before 1980 or so. I grew up without it and my automatic response to being thanked is either a smile or 'not at all'. I suspect this might be the issue: perhaps for some it feels like an interloper, and as a result feels less meaningful and more formulaic.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm with those who don't have an automatic response to "Thank you" other than a smile.

    Of the possible verbal responses, "You're welcome" is, for me, the least likely: I can't imagine saying it.

    ----

    PS. I also can't imagine saying "Not at all" or "It's a pleasure".
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    When did 'You're welcome' enter BrE? I can't recall it being used in BrE before 1980 or so. I grew up without it and my automatic response to being thanked is either a smile or 'not at all'. I suspect this might be the issue: perhaps for some it feels like an interloper, and as a result feels less meaningful and more formulaic.
    An article on the grammarphobia blog claims to trace the usage right back to Shakespeare's time! I'd have said instinctively that it was around when I was growing up in the 1960s, but I could be mistaken: however it doesn't come across to me as being a recent thing.

    I don't say it (or something like it) every single time someone says "thank you" to me, but as in other languages/cultures it just seems a bit churlish not to acknowledge the thanks with a brief reply. Maybe that's how I've picked it up - as a schoolboy from learning other languages where it's considered the norm to do it. ;)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    As I said on another related thread, "you're welcome" doesn't spring easily to my old British lips because it feels like an Americanism and I didn't grow up using it. I can see how it could be useful though, if you are comfortable with it.

    As to the objection that a smile isn't a good enough reply when you are speaking on the phone, I can only say that I have to tailor my response to the context in which "thank you" is said to me. If my niece phones and thanks me for s present I sent her I'd probably say "I'm glad you like it". If someone thanks me for doing business with him I might say "Thank you, you've been very helpful." Any polite response that springs to mind at the time would do, but I realise that one set phrase is easier to use and requires no thinking.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    When did 'You're welcome' enter BrE? I can't recall it being used in BrE before 1980 or so. I grew up without it and my automatic response to being thanked is either a smile or 'not at all'. I suspect this might be the issue: perhaps for some it feels like an interloper, and as a result feels less meaningful and more formulaic.
    I have a feeling that it was it was used down the pub when I was living in Cheshire in the fifties (the nineteen-fifties, in case anyone is wondering). I came to associate it with the northern working-class before I thought of it as an Americanism.

    I can find absolutely no literary confirmation of this at all, so I wonder if my memory is playing tricks.

    Much of what Velisarius says in her post #37 strikes a chord with me.
     

    Mrs JJJ

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (British)
    So it is actually more deferent(why doesn't spellcheck allow this?) to say 'it's a pleasure'
    Why? Probably because it's very unusual. (I had to look it up, to check that it even existed. :))
    The word "deferential" is much more common and that's what I'd use here.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    sovereign, with whom one does not bandy civilities.
    I was wondering whether 'you are welcome' is more friendly, offhand - and that's why it doesn't fit in some situations, especially where respect and distance are stressed and familiarity is frowned upon. Whereas it might be suitable where the spirit of democracy prevails. Since it seems to be a US import: I'd read some threads on why some words and expressions differ between US and UK because of difference in histories - and also between hospitable South and North US; foxfirebrand touched upon it sometimes, at the moment only one thread comes to mind: on how 'common' lacks its second meaning in US, and plural nouns are treated differently: here.
    it feels like an Americanism
    How does it feel like an Americanism - how do Americanisms feel?
    response to "Thank you" other than a smile.
    I find verbal response helpful in specific situations when I haven't really enjoyed the help I've given, and when I would find it hard to force a smile.
    The word "deferential" is much more common
    I don't know where I picked up deferent, but I can't abandon it in favour of deferential, which is un-pretty and reminds me of cars.:(

    (Is no one else freaked out by the mention of sovereign?)
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    How does it feel like an Americanism - how do Americanisms feel?
    Velisarius's "It feels like an Americanism" is an idiomatic use of "to feel", siares. It feels like an Americanism to me too. It, i.e. the expression "You're welcome" doesn't feel anything. When we say "It feels like an Americanism", the meaning is "I perceive it to be an Americanism".
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Some AE expressions are very familiar to me and I understand perfectly how to use them and it doesn't bother me a lot when someone else uses them. I'm trying to imagine someone with a Birmingham accent saying "You're welcome" and it makes me laugh.

    My mental ear always hears "You're welcome" or "the movies" with an American accent. I must have heard it many more times in American films and on TY than I've heard it in real life. I haven't lived in England much for the past forty years, so that will have something to do with it. None of my friends or family used the expression and I'm sure they would have thought it odd if I did. I sometimes say "You're welcome" to non-native speakers because I know they are expecting to hear a similar response and might think me rude if I didn't.
     
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