Look at this famous phrase used by a British talkshow host when saying goodbye to his audience:

'Nice to see you, to see you nice!'

Nobody in the UK (including my grandmother who was a frequent viewer) seemed to think it sounded strange...

I think it's grammatically acceptable - due to some missing but understood elements of the sentence.

Can you have a go at estimating what they may be?

  • 1
    Are you sure it's saying goodbye. I hardly ever watched the show, but I'm pretty sure that that was his welcome, not his farewell (as "Nice to see you" is a welcome).
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 22, 2011 at 14:32
  • 1
    It was/is definitely Brucie's welcome, and he still uses it. Incidentally, the one thing I'm fairly sure he hasn't done in his career is host a talk show.
    – user1579
    Mar 22, 2011 at 14:44
  • IIRC it was in a early 1970's TV advert that Bruce stared in: An annoying fan came up to him & said "hello Bruce, nice to see you, to see you nice." & it became Bruce's catchphrase from then on...
    – colly0410
    Aug 13, 2021 at 18:15

4 Answers 4


I'm not a native speaker, so I may get this completely wrong, but I would interpret it as:

I am happy to see you, and too see that you are well.

So, the second part would just be a reinforcement of the first one. In particular the repetition of "to see you" is used as a way to strenghten the premise, and probably because

Nice to see you nice!

is probably of less effect.

  • 1
    I think you are over-interpreting it (understandable if it's not your language). To me, it is simply a chiasmic repetition (see Robusto's answer).
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 22, 2011 at 14:34
  • Could as well be, although chiasma often comes with repetition in order to strengthen a first statement. See for instance the famous chiasmas "all for one, one for all" (Dumas) or "Le donne, i cavallier, l'arme, gli amori" ("Of women, knights, arms, loves", incipit of Orlando Furioso)
    – nico
    Mar 22, 2011 at 16:06
  • I don't think your interpretation is right at all. I have always understood it as an exact repetition. "To see you nice" has the same meaning (albeit reversed in form for emphasis) as "Nice to see you". Sep 19, 2014 at 23:21

This is an example of chiasmus, a rhetorical figure in which the structure of the first clause is reversed in the second clause, in an AB-BA pattern. One of the most famous examples comes from John F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration speech:

Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

This device is powerful, as are most rhetorical devices, and one should take care in using them. Idle usage can sound silly or pompous. As Ward Farnsworth notes in his exemplary Classical English Rhetoric:

A chiasmus that reverses the same words ... calls attention to itself strongly, and so must be used with particular care ... In the hands of a typical modern politician, [it] will sound disagreeably slick and perhaps even repulsive.

There is nothing ungrammatical about the usage in your example, but it sounds odd here because its power is way out of proportion to the simple and somewhat insipid greeting it's used to express.

  • Wow, today I learned something completely awesome. For completeness, can you please include a link to a dictionary or at least its pronunciation?
    – MrHen
    Mar 22, 2011 at 15:24
  • 1
    @MrHen: Pronunciation here
    – Robusto
    Mar 22, 2011 at 15:41

It really is just a catch phrase. The audience shouts out the second "nice" on cue - the second "nice to see you" is the cue for the audience to all shout out "nice" at the same time.

  • Hello, 133. It's certainly a catchphrase, but it is also, as the most upvoted answer says, an example of chiasmus. 'Nice to see you' is a conversational deletion of 'It is nice to see you', while the reflected echo pushes the boundaries of grammaticality rather further. As usual, usage determines acceptability. Aug 11, 2015 at 21:23

Some punctuation should help:

'Nice to see you, to see you - nice!'

A short form of

'It is nice to see you; to see you is nice!'

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