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I was taught to use "not at all" as a rather polite, standard reply to "thank you". However, I don't see it being used at all nowadays. Can I still use it? Would it be widely understood? Should I be aware of any differences between using it in British, American, Canadian, and Australian English? (As in, are there better alternatives in any particular dialect?)

Edit: A (German) friend of mine who spent a year studying in Edinburgh says "not at all" is still fairly common there.

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As a a native still living in Edinburgh, I'd say "not at all" as often as "you're welcome". –  FordBuchanan Aug 18 '10 at 16:09
    
@RegDwight I'm YatharthROCK from this answer. I see you've merged it with this one. I didn't;t know there was a merge option. Is it just for ES, or is it in the SE engine? I don't see mods on SO (where I'm more active) use it a a lot. They normally just close the post and the answers on the closed post get frozen and lost... –  YatharthROCK Sep 11 '12 at 14:10
    
@Yat that feature is available on all SE sites, and has been for years. Check out the official blog post. "If you believe [two questions] should be merged, flag them for moderator attention and indicate what you believe the merge target should be. (Yes, merging is still a moderator only function at the moment.) If the moderator agrees, the merge will happen." –  RegDwigнt Sep 11 '12 at 14:19
    
@RegDwight Your mention is not completed and not stripped from my comment (as happens when posting comments that mention the owner of the post; they'll automatically notified w/o it too). So how could I notify otherwise? Would I have to find a unicode map and then paste it here? –  YatharthROCK Sep 11 '12 at 15:47

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I'm not sure how "Not at all" sounds in response to "thank you". I guess I'd have to hear it in context. I think I would understand it.

Some alternatives which may connote the same polite dismissal might be:

Don't mention it.

No problem.

My pleasure.

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It would sound a little old fashioned or formal to me. Still usable, though. (I'm in Ireland.)

It is, of course, still the standard in French and Spanish: de rien, de nada.

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French, Spanish and also Portuguese ("de nada") –  b.roth Dec 2 '10 at 11:11

This may be overly obvious, but in American English, saying "you're welcome" is certainly polite and standard.

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Yes, but what about "not at all"? My understanding is that he's asking if "not at all" is still used. –  b.roth Aug 18 '10 at 14:55
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This was in response to: "are there better alternatives in any particular dialect?" –  Kosmonaut Aug 18 '10 at 15:17

The NOAD reports that not at all is a polite response to thanks, but I have never heard it being used.
I heard no problem more frequently.

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I believe if someone says, 'Much obliged,' (which seems to contain more gratitude than 'Thank you') the response both logical and polite is, 'Not at all,' since the first person is saying, 'I am indebted for the kindness and thus owe you a favor,' while the second replies, 'Please, no, you don't owe me anything.' But if the first person says, 'Thank you,' for the second to answer, 'Not at all,' is illogical: the first says, 'I am grateful to you,' so such an answer would imply, 'No, sorry, you are not grateful,' which of course is not what is meant, or understood. Still, I believe it is understood in the idiomatic way, and thus it is still polite. 'You're welcome,' means, 'I did it for you gladly and will gladly do it again.' 'No problem,' though doesn't have such connotations of generosity, implying only that the action depends on its being particularly easy, something one might do only because he didn't have to go at all out of his way or to any expense. And of course, 'My pleasure,' is suitable in any case. Conclusion: Let's start saying, 'Much obliged,' more often, i.e. any time at least a little more than, 'Thank you,' seems necessary.

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