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My young son recently started saying "Pardon me" after, for example, burping. We try to praise, or at least respond, when he does something right, as encouragement and as a form of learning. This caused a discussion on how one should respond in general.

So my question is - what should be the correct, polite response to the phrase "Pardon me"?

My guess would be the formal "You are pardoned."

Answers should ideally ignore the fact that the response will be to a young child, otherwise "Well done" followed by applause would fit the bill.

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Interesting question. I usually just say "Certainly" but always felt like I should deflect to be polite: "There is nothing to pardon." So I've wondered this myself. –  KitFox Jun 9 '11 at 12:43
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Part of this language, part social norms and teaching social norms. For the latter, I suggest asking this question also on the Parenting.SE site. –  Mitch Jun 9 '11 at 14:45
    
Thanks for pointing me to the Parenting.SE site... looks quite useful, although I do wonder if it's too late and we've already ruined out child :) –  icabod Jun 10 '11 at 9:28
    
Related: Proper answer to “excuse me”. –  Callithumpian Jun 23 '11 at 22:10
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

A considerate person might spare further embarrassment by simply smiling discreetly, or using some other body language.

If you feel the need to respond, you could say "that's OK".

If you want to be extra polite/formal, say "I beg your pardon." instead of "Pardon me!".

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For some situations, say, someone steps on your foot, the exchange would go like this:

you: "Ow"

them: "Pardon me"

you: "No problem" (informal), "That's quite all right" (formal), "Watch it buster" (rude and in a 1930's gangster film, i.e. you wouldn't ever say this because it is impolite and outdated) Most likely you'd scowl a bit, but with an appeasing style. If you were Canadian, it would start with -you- saying "Pardon me" or "I'm so sorry".

For normal adult English, if someone burps, the exchange goes like this:

them (after burping): "Pardon me" or "Excuse me"

...and that's it. You don't respond to their excuse for violating that kind of social norm (it is rude to burp in public). You don't want to continue the embarrassment of everybody involved by making an exchange out of it.

(this is different from sneezing...someone sneezes, you say "bless you" or 'gesundheit" or something, and they may or may not respond with a "thanks". For coughing...nobody cares.)

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I voted up @z7sg's as I agree no response is necessary.

Other options for if you feel the need to respond: "no worries" or "no problem".

Of course with close friends and family if I want to be joking I would respond "I should say so!"

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+1 for the reference to close family/friends. I actually quite like the idea of a mix between the two... say nothing, but raise a distasteful eyebrow :) –  icabod Jun 10 '11 at 9:30
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