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The first thing that is taught in typical English classes is almost always the formal version of the language. I learned the same kind of formal Japanese in my first Japanese language classes before going to Japan.
But do you know what happened when I made some real Japanese friends? I didn’t understand them! I had to learn to speak casual Japanese, as opposed to the formal version. The good thing was that my friends and co-workers were really kind and helped me learn how to speak casually.
The thing about English is that even in “formal” situations, English speakers use pretty casual spoken English. Casual and normal spoken English is important to know for U.S. business if you want to build working relationships.
RELATED: Making Small Talk in English Part 1: Starting the Conversation
Today I want to give you better, friendlier and more casual options for the commonly taught (but RARELY used) phrase, “Thank you very much.” I will be your patient American friend and teach you some other more common phrases you can use instead of "Thank you very much."
Read on to learn more commonly used ways to say “thank you very much,” so that you don’t sound like a formal old business man who never smiles:
‘Thank you very much’ is too formal
In one of your classes, I bet your teacher taught you a “conversation” like this:
Person A: How do you do?
Person B: I’m fine, thank you very much. And you?
But guess how many people (even in fairly formal business situations) ACTUALLY use this phrase, word for word, exactly like you were taught.
If you guessed almost NO ONE, you are correct! You will sound too formal and not very fluent if you use ‘Thank you very much’ all of the time instead of some of these alternatives below.
The following ‘Thank you very much’ alternatives below go from most casual and finally to formal/useful in almost any situation.
If you are with friends, or even if you want to talk to your English teacher or tutor, a simple ‘Thanks’ sounds really friendly and is polite to say almost anywhere. You can use this word with your co-workers and your boss for small favors.
Here are a couple example conversations where ‘thanks’ would be the best option to let someone know you appreciate them:
Friend A: Here’s some water for you.
Friend B: Thanks!
Boss: Here are the documents for you to start working on.
Employee: Sure! Thanks, Mr. Garrison.
‘Thank you’ is a little more formal than ‘thanks.’
Thank you is used in spoken English. Maybe you are talking to your boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents, or maybe you want your friend to know that you really appreciate something. You can use thank you with your boss too.
Remember to put the stress on the word ‘thank’ in ‘thank you’. Here is an example conversation:
Co-worker A: Hey, do you need a ride home?
Co-worker B: Sure! THANK you!
THANKS A LOT
‘Thanks a lot’ is still a casual, yet really nice way to tell someone that you appreciate what they did for you.
Just like with ‘thank you,’ you can use ‘thanks a lot’ with friends, at school and at work. You could even use it on a business call. For example:
(Business conference call)
Company A: We want to say thanks a lot to the wonderful team at Company B for helping us through our recent restructure.
THANK YOU SO MUCH
If you are very appreciative of something that someone has done for you, ‘thank you so much’ is the best alternative to ‘thank you very much.’
This phrase can be a little bit formal, depending on how you use it. Here are two examples:
(still casual, between friends)
Friend A: Happy Birthday! I got you a little something.
Friend B: Oh wow! (Opening the present…) Nice!! Thank you sooo much, I love it!
(more formal, with a boss)
Boss: You don’t look so well. Why don’t you go home early today.
Employee: Oh, thank you so much, Ms. Hicks. I think I’ll feel better tomorrow.
Here's an image I created for you with different options for "Thank you very much":
SO I SHOULDN’T EVER USE THANK YOU VERY MUCH?
If you REALLY want to use ‘thank you very much,’ I would recommend using it only when addressing a group. A proper place to use ‘thank you very much’ could be when presenting at a formal business meeting or making a toast at a wedding.
There are not many truly appropriate situations to use ‘thank you very much’ at, so try and use one of the other options above.
What’s your favorite way to say ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you’?
Learn to speak real, conversational American English with Sabrina, an American English teacher.
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