66

Quite often (9 out of 10 times?), on radio (NPR), when the interviewer says "Thank you" to the interviewee, the reply is also "Thank you."

What has happened to "You're welcome?" Why is "You're welcome" so uncomfortable to say?

102

I think "you're welcome" means one person gave to the other. In situations where both parties perceive that they are receiving, they both say thank you.

  • 7
    This is the correct answer. “You’re welcome” is not rude. If only one person is giving, that person could say “You’re welcome” – Steven Penny Dec 7 '14 at 9:04
  • 31
    I listen NPR often. They finish like this: "thank you for being here" "Thank you for having me". Both are happy for the opportunity. – Peter M. Dec 8 '14 at 0:09
  • 2
    Yes, usually for a variety of reasons people are eager for the opportunity to share something on mass media. So the host is thankful for the info and the guest is thankful for the opportunity to receive attention. This kind of situation is more of a quid pro quo. – Mark Rogers Dec 8 '14 at 3:35
  • In a way, "you're welcome" may be more proper speech, but I sometimes get the feeling that "no problem" may be a bit more humble - and in certain informal situations, more respectful. "You're welcome" seems to do slightly more to act as though you're above the other person, as the one they're receiving from, than "no problem". – Panzercrisis Dec 9 '14 at 17:47
  • I am a bit older and do use "you're welcome" when it's not a mutually beneficial situation. If I suspect the other party might take it condescendingly, I usually say something like, "you are most welcome," to indicate that I am happy to have given whatever it is. – Matthew Frederick Dec 21 '16 at 4:37
62

You have it wrong. Nothing has happened to "you're welcome."

While it is certainly reasonable for the interviewer to thank the interviewe, it is not unreasonable for the interviewee to appreciate the opportunity to speak. The interviewee's thank yous should be interpreted as "no, thank you [for letting me speak]," rather than as 'you're welcome."

  • 10
    It's not just in interviews. You're welcome really has fallen out of common usage. I only hear it from older people any more. Maybe this is a regional thing, but I don't think so. – dnagirl Dec 6 '14 at 3:57
  • 53
    I think "you're welcome" is beginning to sound arrogant (implying that the thanks is deserved) instead of polite. – Fengyang Wang Dec 6 '14 at 4:08
  • 22
    I don't think "you're welcome" is arrogant in any way. Plus, it also has a great deal to do with the tone that is used. – Patrick T. Randolph Dec 6 '14 at 4:44
  • 10
    I sometimes get "no worries, man" instead of "no problem"... But yeah, thank you is replied with thank you as a genuine response thanking the thanker for the opportunity. When host says "Thank you for coming over to the studio " guest saying "[No,] Thank you for having me here." shows humility, which is much more important than "social codes of conduct". Saying "you're welcome" could be seen as egoistic or a sign of arrogance that they are important and the host should feel thankful to have them there. – ADTC Dec 6 '14 at 17:33
  • 8
    In Canada, "you're welcome" is sarcastic only when it is said to someone who didn't say thank you. – James McLeod Dec 7 '14 at 12:28
15

You guys are making it too complicated. I give you a simple example happening in our daily life. When you are looking for a job, at the end of the interview, the interviewer usually ends it up by saying "Thank you for your time." You wouldn't response "you are welcome" because you are clear that you are both doing each other a favor, instead of only you're doing the favors. So you probably want to say "Thank you for giving me a chance" to acknowledge his effort, too, as a human being with the basic manner. So it's the same scenario in air shows that the host and the guest are actually doing each other the favors, so they should be both thankful to each other.

  • 2
    Truth be told, I read three posters whose answers contain the same observation. But your example is very clear, I liked it. – Mari-Lou A Dec 7 '14 at 6:07
7

As Fengyang Wang commented on another answer, "You're welcome" runs the risk of sounding arrogant and implying that the thanks given was expected or deserved. For this reason I don't use it often, and I usually advise English learners not to use it unless they're really comfortable with its usage. There are much clearer and more meaningful/creative ways of responding to thanks such as:

  • Thank you for giving me the opportunity...
  • [It was] no problem
  • I enjoyed getting the chance to [help/whatever]
  • ...

that both avoid this risk and avoid sounding canned and insincere.

  • 2
    I think this perception may have arisen from the trend of intentionally saying "you're welcome" in an entitled or sarcastic manner, drawing attention to the fact that the person being spoken to has not offered the gratitude that the speaker thinks they deserve. – Kevin Krumwiede Dec 7 '14 at 5:54
  • 2
    I definitely agree with this, at least to me, saying "you're welcome" would imply that one has done a very significant favour or helped the other party out of an extremely desperate situation and if applied to something small would appear arrogant and seem to be overstating what the benefactor did. On the other hand a returned "thank-you" or "no problem" or even "no worries" implies humbleness, stating that either the inconvenience to you was nothing compared to the goodness of helping, or even that you actively benefited from what you did and are pleased of this. – Vality Dec 7 '14 at 7:56
  • 2
    Overuse of "no problem" can also be problematic (heh). If you really have helped someone, and they thank you, "no problem" belittles not only the work done, but also the other person's gratitude and the underlying idea that you actually cared to help them. For trivial things, there's no problem with "no problem". For weightier things, you should acknowledge someone's gratitude, but let them know that you were willing to go out of your way because you value your relationship with them — that is, they're welcome. – hobbs Dec 7 '14 at 9:26
  • 1
    I find this explanation odd. If someone says "Thank you" to me, I reply with "You're welcome." What I find arrogant-sounding is people who reply to "Thank you" with "Uh huh". To me that sounds like the person being thanked is saying, "Yes, you do (of course) thank me." – curious-proofreader Dec 9 '14 at 5:23
  • 1
    I think we're seeing a serious generational gap in these comments. – R.. Dec 9 '14 at 17:09
4

Nice observation. I think it really depends on "the company." If the two are somewhat "familiar" with each other perhaps "Thank you" could be more appropriate. But when the two are on less familiar terms, "You're welcome" is common. If it's radio, it could also be that the two are mutually thankful for each other.

Your question is a good one, and I recommend taking a look at Harvey Sacks (1994) "Conversation Analysis." Observations like yours are in the book and answers like mine are in there as well.

Notice, as above, when asking directions in a "foreign place," you will hear "You're welcome" more (Sacks, 1994) because the folks "want to be polite" with you.

  • You may also want to look at Gail Jefferson's work on Conversational Analysis. She actually transcribed all of Sack's lectures from 1965-1975. – Patrick T. Randolph Dec 6 '14 at 4:07
  • 2
    You'll hear "you're welcome" when thanking someone for directions anywhere that you ask for them. It's nothing to do with wanting to be polite; why would they thank you for giving you directions? – Carl Smith Dec 7 '14 at 2:17
2

While I completely agree with everyone else who has answered that in the context mentioned in the question, both parties are doing a favour to each other and hence they both thank each other, I feel that at least for certain speakers of the language, '"you're welcome" is beginning to sound arrogant. I am aware that many people disagree with this opinion but this answer does not reflect the views of the entire English I speaking community. As mentioned in the comments above, a lot of people (especially of the younger generations) feel that "you're welcome" is becoming a phrase that contains hints of arrogance as if the person saying it is saying that he is DESERVING of thanks. At least with most of the speakers with whom I communicate, we tend to use phrases such as 'no worries' and 'no problems' instead of thanks, which express the sentiment that we are glad to be of service to whoever is saying 'thanks'. While "you're welcome' used to convey this sentiment some years ago, in my opinion it doesn't do so today. Maybe this can be attributed to the fact that the younger generation tends to use this phrase sarcastically. As some have pointed out, tone is of utmost importance when using this phrase as one can easily offend someone using a harsh tone.

  • 6
    What on earth is wrong with being deserving of thanks? The corollary to what you're saying is that nobody ever deserves gratitude for anything they do, in which case I guess we shouldn't go around saying "Thank you," either, because the underlying implication is that we don't really mean it. – Craig Dec 7 '14 at 22:30
  • 1
    I couldn't agree with you more user3182445 (wish you had a human name though). Whether in a formal or casual setting I can never bring myself to say 'You're welcome'. Personally, I think it smacks of arrogance, I've no idea why though. I would say exactly what you suggested, 'No worries','Not a problem' or 'Any time'. I guess the aim of using that sort of language might be to suggest that whatever good deed I might have done wasn't a big deal and I was happy to do it, even when it was a very big deal and I was very unhappy to do it! – Daft Dec 8 '14 at 18:04
  • 1
    You're welcome. in my mind means I'm happy that you're happy. – jxh Dec 8 '14 at 23:48
  • 1
    @jxh Right? And possibly also that I'm healthy enough (no codependent fear of coming off arrogant by not using some timid slang phrase) to accept your gratitude and respond with respectful acknowledgement of the same. – Craig Dec 8 '14 at 23:55
  • 1
    Saying "You're welcome." is just good manners. There is a misconception that good manners is used to put people down, but it is just the opposite. – jxh Dec 9 '14 at 3:41
2

"You're welcome" has not lost its meaning and won't sound arrogant either, if done graciously.

See this conversation:
Person1: "Thank you very much for taking the time"
Person2: (smiling graciously) "You're most welcome. Thank you too for giving me the opportunity"
Person1: (smiling) "My pleasure"

Perhaps the other reason people don't say "You're welcome" is a "monkey-see-monkey-do" of observing others not saying it, and thinking that it's the right way of responding. For others, it just may be a way of making the conversation quicker (although I do agree that people might feel worried that it might sound arrogant).

protected by ermanen Dec 9 '14 at 5:03

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.