If I asked you to count how many times you said “thank you” today, how would you respond?
After all, it *is* one of the most essential phrases in the English language.
That said, if you really start to think about it, you probably don’t say thank you as often as you’d like to.
We can all agree that you should say “thanks” when someone does you a favor, when you receive a gift, or when a complete stranger takes the time to respond to your question, such as when you ask for directions in a new city.
But how often do you thank a friend or colleague for waiting for you when you’re running late, for listening to you when you feel sad or stressed and just need to express yourself, or for giving you a compliment or constructive feedback?
Let’s be honest here – sometimes we all fall into the bad habit of taking people for granted (or at least taking their kindness or generosity for granted).
Every November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to giving and expressing thanks, showing gratitude to our friends and family, and appreciating all of the good things in our lives.
While you could argue that we should be practicing gratitude year-round (and you would be right), the Thanksgiving holiday reminds us to slow down, look around us, and pay attention to all the gifts life has given us.
Through this article, you’ll learn how to genuinely say thank you, show appreciation, and express gratitude in English.
Remember, it’s not just about the words, being grateful can actually improve your mood, your attitude, and even your life!
Difference Between Thanks, Appreciation, and Gratitude
When we talk about giving thanks, we are actually talking about several different concepts.
Saying “thank you” describes the simple, clear act of using a phrase like “thank you,” “thanks,” “thanks so much,” or any of the common phrases we use to verbally express our thanks that I share below.
When we appreciate someone or something, we perform an action; we recognize the value of something we received, the time someone spent with us, or their contribution to our life.
Appreciation goes beyond acknowledging its value to feeling a deeper sense of gratitude.
When we show appreciation for something, we demonstrate our feelings through actions. This usually involves saying a genuine “thank you” either publicly or privately.
On the other hand, gratitude can be considered an attitude or approach to living a good life.
The word gratitude describes the state of being thankful or grateful due to a constant awareness of the positive aspects of your life.
For many people, gratitude is actually a practice, something you work on doing on a daily basis.
Why Saying Thank You is Important
As I mentioned above, saying thank you more often and giving thanks as part of a gratitude practice can have an important impact on your personal well-being. (Check out this Psychology Today article for more information.)
However, for non-native English speakers, saying thanks can also have a major impact on how native speakers view you, the way you express yourself, and how people receive you and your message, particularly in the workplace.
First of all, saying thank you shows good manners. In fact, it’s it’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to ensure that someone sees you as polite.
(For more tips about politeness, you can read these articles!)
Remember, we’re more likely to remember when someone doesn’t say “thank you” after we’ve invested time and energy into helping them. I bet you can think of a few examples right now!
Besides demonstrating good manners, saying thank you signals your respect for the other person’s time or knowledge, and an acknowledgement that the other person offered you time, energy, or help that you received with appreciation.
When we honestly and genuinely appreciate other people and their contributions to our lives, this creates a deeper shared bond between us.
In turn, this often leads to a stronger friendship or a more supportive work relationship and more opportunities to collaborate and work together in the future.
Remember, the key word here is genuine.
When something is genuine, you truly mean what you say, your feelings are authentic, and your attitude is sincere. We all want to be appreciated, and we know when people mean it!
Now that we understand the importance of saying thank you, let’s talk about how you can use English to genuinely show appreciation through your words and intonation.
Keys to Saying Thank You
When expressing gratitude in English, there are four key aspects that you want to pay attention to so that your appreciation is understood by your listener:
- Choose an appropriate expression to say thank you
- Use intonation that reflects your appreciation
- Be specific about what you are thanking the person for
- Follow up with another appreciative phrase or a compliment
General Expressions to Say Thank You
If you’re in doubt about the best way to say “thank you,” don’t worry – a simple “thanks” is always enough as long as it’s genuine. But if you want to increase your gratitude, choose one of these expressions.
- Thank you.
- Thanks / thank you so much.
- Thanks a lot.
- Thanks a ton.
- Thanks a bunch.
- Thanks a million.
- All I can say is thanks.
- I (really) appreciate it.
When thanking the same person for various things, be sure to vary your vocabulary.
Not only does this show your mastery of English, but it also helps demonstrate that you do not take their help or time for granted!
Fun Ways to Say Thank You
Beyond the classic expressions I mention above, there are several fun expressions we use to thank people in more informal settings or when surrounded by friends.
Native English speakers recognize these phrases as expressions of gratitude, especially when combined with appropriate intonation.
- You rock.
- Props to…
- You’re the best.
- (I’d like to give a) shout out to…
- Hats off to…
- You saved my life.
- You saved my day.
- You’re a lifesaver.
- I owe you big time.
- I’ll pay you back.
- I’ll get you back.
The last three expressions demonstrate that you are so thankful for the person’s help that you’ll be sure to help them out in a similar situation at another time.
Use Intonation That Expresses Your Appreciation
When you say thank you or express appreciation, your intonation is key to making sure the other person understands your sincere gratitude.
Because intonation is used for conversational purposes, the way you show enthusiasm in your statement can affect whether or not the person thinks you mean what you say!
In general, when you show appreciation, your intonation will follow the same pattern as expressing enthusiasm or happiness, with several rises throughout the statement and a rise and fall at the end.
We will also generally put extra stress and emphasis on the words most related to our emotions, like “thank(s),” “appreciate,” “grateful,” “thankful” in addition to the last content word of the sentence.
Without the appropriate intonation, your “thank you” can sound flat or sarcastic, so take time to consider your intonation to make sure the other person knows how much you appreciate them!
Be sure to watch the video lesson to understand how intonation works in these phrases!
Be Specific About What You Are Thankful For
As with giving compliments, when we thank someone, we want to make sure that the person understands exactly why we are appreciative.
You actually strengthen your expression of thanks by being specific.
Thankfully, it’s really easy to be specific about what you’re grateful for. Simply stated, you use the word “for”!
You can say “thank you for your help,” “thanks for coming,” “I’m grateful for your time,” or “I’m thankful for your friendship.”
If you use the word “appreciate,” you want to follow it with a noun or pronoun instead. Here are some examples:
- I really appreciate it.
- I appreciate you.
- I appreciate your help / time / advice / suggestions.
Similarly, when we express gratitude towards another person or for the blessings in our lives, we also need to be specific.
As I mentioned above, gratitude is a practice, and one way that we emphasize our gratitude in English is to name what we are grateful for.
- I am thankful for…
- I am grateful for…
- I am truly grateful that…
- I feel blessed that…
Saying Thank You in Specific Situations
Keep in mind that English has certain phrases that are more commonly used in certain situations.
If you start using these expressions appropriately, you will sound more natural in English. Here are some examples. (Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments.)
- Thank you for coming. (used to appreciate someone’s attendance of your party, performance, or other meeting)
- Thank you for writing / calling. (used to thank someone for reaching out to you via email or on the phone)
- Thanks for checking in. (used to thank someone for following up because they they knew the other person was feeling bad, such as sick, stressed, or sad)
- Thank you for letting me know. (used to give someone good or bad news)
- Thank you for the gift. (used after receiving a present or donation)
- Thank you for the invitation / invite. (used to show appreciation for being included even if you can’t attend)
- Thank you for the kind words. (usually used after receiving a compliment)
- Thank you for the support. (used to show appreciation when someone shows you compassion when you are feeling emotional, discouraged, or upset)
- Thanks for taking the time to… (used to show appreciation for a busy person’s time)
Follow Up With Another Appreciative Phrase
Lastly, an excellent expression of gratitude will include repetition, but that doesn’t mean saying “thank you” several times in a row!
Instead, use one of these expressions to show that the other person’s action, time, or gift truly matters to you.
- You didn’t have to do this.
- You didn’t need to do that.
- You are so thoughtful / generous / sweet.
- I’m so touched.
- That means so much (to me).
- That means a lot.
- You’ve gone above and beyond.
- What would I do without you?
- That’s so nice of you.
- You’re too kind.
- You’re amazing!
Showing Deeper Appreciation
If words just don’t seem like enough to show the extent of your gratitude, these English expressions demonstrate a sincere, deep appreciation for the other person and their actions.
- I don’t even have the words to thank you.
- I appreciate this more than you will ever know.
- Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- I’m eternally grateful.
- I can’t thank you enough.
- I’ll never forget your kindness.
- I don’t think I can ever repay you.
- You have my deepest thanks / appreciation / gratitude.
- God bless you.
Responding to Thanks
If someone says thank you, be sure to say you’re welcome. It’s the right thing to do. 🙂
Now it’s your turn! Try showing appreciation in the comments below by using the keys to saying thank you I describe.
You can thank me for writing this article or choose a situation from your life that you want to practice showing gratitude for.