How To Respond To Merci Beaucoup In French

One of the first things one learns in French is merci (thank you.)  You will hear variations such as:
Merci beaucoup
Merci infiniment
Merci de... (e.g. Merci de votre réponse, Merci d'être venu)
Je vous remercie beaucoup.

But how do you respond in kind? One of the challenges of learning to speak French well is mastering those little expressions of politeness that go a long way to making conversations flow smoothly and demonstrate fluency.

When someone says Thank you (very much) in English, the most common response is probably along the lines of: You're welcome or some variation such as: You're more than welcome or You're very welcome. There are a couple of other possibilities, of course, such as: Be my guest, My pleasure,  No problem and Likewise.

Certain forms like You're welcome and My pleasure are socially neutral in that they can be used under any circumstances. Others may be considered rather informal, to be used in casual conversations and others more formal for those more official occasions where one wants to be very polite.

In French the situation is similar;  there are many ways to respond to the various forms of merci. Be careful. You must avoid at all costs the temptation to translate word for word. The results are inevitably very awkward and show a poor command of idiomatic French. Instead, you want to respond with a quick and confident response that will impress your listener and give the impression that your French is very fluent.

Let me first point out that in France, one does not say: bienvenue in response to merci This is a literal translation of Welcome and often heard in Quebec French, Some people criticize it for being a poor translation, but it is becoming widespread. To avoid any negative perceptions, it is probably best to avoid this word even if it is quite common. Here are some good alternatives in all varieties of French.

De rien (For nothing) is a short form, a bit informal perhaps, but can be used anywhere.

Je vous en prie (I beg of you) is an all-purpose form, a bit on the formal side.  This is a very polite form.

C'est moi qui vous remercie (It is I who thanks you) is a bit of a mouthful. Also all-purpose and a tad formal.

il n'y a pas de quoi or pas de quoi (There is nothing to it) is a bit literary and very polite.

Pas de problème (No problem) is very informal and considered somewhat slangy.  To be used with cautiion.

Ça m'a fait plaisir  or cela m'a fait plaisir (It gave me pleasure) is quite common in Quebec and rare in France.

Merci à vous or Merci à toi  (Thanks to you) is a bit informal and short.

Which ones to choose? In terms of recommendations, you can't go wrong with je vous en prie, c'est moi qui vous remercie and Il n'y a pas de quoi.  They are all on the very polite side and  good for nearly all occasions. The others expressions are also quite usable especially if you want to add a bit of informality.

Like many features of spoken language, usage will vary according to the degree of formality.  de rien, merci à toi and pas de quoi are short and punchy. They are good for fast-moving conversations.

The only one that I recommend using with caution is pas de problème. I'm not saying it is not to be used.  It is just is a bit slangy and best avoided if you are not sure of how to use it well. Note that it is to be used when you actually mean No problem as in response to Can I change my flight? Just avoid it as an all-purpose answer to merci unless you feel comfortable doing so.

(First publishd by articles@ezine )