Welcome is a verb,

We welcome you to Rio de Janeiro
They welcomed the good news.
When we arrived, we weren't welcomed

and a noun.

What a lovely welcome.
The cold welcome was unexpected.

Welcoming is an adjective

His cosy home was very welcoming

The people of Rio are so friendly and welcoming.

Oregon is one of the most welcoming states for incoming refugees

as too is welcomed

The sunny weather provided a welcomed change.
A larger size would be very welcomed.

And welcome is also an adjective,

Welcome to Rio di Janeiro!
You're welcome
You are very welcome to stay the night
Sam is always a welcome guest

Collins Dictionary has a very good page about the different uses and meanings of welcome, and says

4. adjective
under no obligation (only in such phrases as you're welcome or he's welcome, as conventional responses to thanks)

But offers no insight as to why WELCOME and not WELCOMING or WELCOMED is preferred. Is there a grammatical reason for this? Is it down to convention and idiomaticity?

Q1: Should I always mark “You're welcomed” as wrong?
Why/Why not?
Q2: Is the full form “You are welcomed” better, more acceptable?


I am not a professional or qualified teacher but I do occasionally give private lessons to Italian students of all ages and levels. A private asked me this yesterday, and the best explanation I could come up with was that English native speakers have said “You're welcome” for over a hundred years, so it is perfectly grammatical.

The following questions on EL&U are closely related, but they did not ask “why”. Consequently, the answers posted either ignored the issue totally, or failed to address it in any depth.

"You are welcome" or "You are welcomed" or "You welcome"

Which is correct: "feedback is welcome" or "feedback is welcomed"?

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    Is your question why is "you're welcomed" never a proper response to "thank you", or never, ever correct grammar? If the latter, that's not the case. – fixer1234 May 26 '17 at 8:29
  • @fixer1234 I am speaking about the response: “You're welcomed” Is it always wrong? Why? Why not? – Mari-Lou A May 26 '17 at 8:33
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    It isn't a correct response for thank you, but it could potentially be a correct response or statement in other contexts. – fixer1234 May 26 '17 at 8:37
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    What's wrong with accepting that it's a common idiom? The past participle of come is come, therefore welcome. However, it seems welcomed has attained its own form (similar to output/outputted, yet the past participle of put is put, "putted" doesn't exist on its own, unless you mean the "putt" verb). Languages are irregular things, I'm sure Italian has plenty of strange and weird idioms and idiosyncrasies that don't have a scientific explanation. – Nobilis May 26 '17 at 9:03
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    [EDITED] @Nobilis I have no problems accepting the phrase as an idiom, I upvoted Josh's answer when he clarified, and added his personal thoughts, because although Copy&Paste answers can often be helpful, I prefer answers that show some effort, always references and personal observations in answers! But... seeing as two answers have been deleted, and Josh's for over two hours, please feel free to post an answer. I might very well accept it. – Mari-Lou A May 26 '17 at 11:27

The words “you are welcomed” are of course not always to be marked as incorrect—there are contexts where they are grammatical, idiomatic, and the exact right phrase to use. For example,

When you step off the ship, you are welcomed by girls in bast skirts who throw flower wreaths around your neck.

This example shows that you are welcomed is a passive construction: the agent (that is, the logical subject) are the exotic girls, and the patient (that is, the logical object) is ‘you’. So really, it means,

When you step off the ship, girls in bast skirts who throw flower wreaths around your neck welcome you.

In other words, welcomed is the past participle of the verb to welcome.

This verb, in itself, is derived by zero-derivation—which is an extremely common and productive way of forming new words in English, probably the most common of all types of derivation—from the word welcome.

Welcome itself started out as an adverb modifying a past participle; that is, it started out being the verb come with the adverb well, at least on some notional level. The only form of that construction that probably ever really had any currency, though, was the past participle—but that construction had so much currency that it was soon univerbated. This was very long ago, though, before there was any such thing as ‘English’.

Throughout the course of English, this original participle (i.e., adjectival unit) became used as an interjection, spawned a noun form with which it later coalesced entirely, and ultimately also spawned the verb to welcome. Note that derived verbs always end up being regular, even if they’re derived from something derived from an irregular verb. See the last paragraphs and the comments to this answer for a bit more on this. The upshot is that the past tense and past participle of welcome are both welcomed (regular), not *welcame and *welcome.

So unlike many other English adjectives, the adjective welcome does not double as a participle, but is exclusively a pure adjective. “*I have welcome him” is quite ungrammatical.

I’m going to disagree with part of what you state in your question here and say that welcomed is the opposite: it is purely a part of the verbal paradigm of to welcome; that is, it is only a participle, not an adjective. The two examples you give (“a welcomed change” and “would be very welcomed”) are both ungrammatical to me. Welcome is the word to use here. This is probably not universally true (I’m sure there are examples of both even in printed books), but it is at least true that in ‘Standard English’, welcome is infinitely more common as an adjective than welcomed.

Accepting that, it should be reasonably clear why “You’re welcomed!” doesn’t work as the answer to a thank-you: it is a passive construction meaning that someone is welcoming you, rather than a simple description of the subject with an adjective (in this case welcome).

So in that particular usage, I would say “You’re/You are welcome” is indeed always the right option, and “You are welcomed” is always wrong.



As for why it’s not “You’re welcoming”, rather than “You’re welcome”, that is simple semantics. One of the meanings of welcome is that which you quote: not obligated, free from the pressure of having social obligations towards someone (in a given context). Welcoming just does not have this meaning at all. Unlike welcome(d), welcoming is a participle that doubles as an adjective, and its meaning is same as most other present participles doubling as adjectives: the meaning of the base verb, expressed as an adjectival attribute of whatever the adjective is modifying.

Unlike Josh’s now deleted answer, I would not call “You’re welcome” an idiom. An idiom is essentially something that is ‘more than the sum of its parts’: even if you know the appropriate, relevant meanings of all the words involved, you still cannot figure out what the phrase means. You just have to know. As a generic platitude, there is a certain level of idiomacy to the very utterance itself, regardless of what you say. “You’re welcome”, “no worries”, “it was nothing”, “don’t mention it”, etc., all have a direct surface meaning that is easy to understand and can be correctly deduced from the meanings of the individual words.

The idiomatic bit is that they are used in this particular fashion, as a formulaic response to a thank-you. But unless you have a specific word whose main denotation is specifically a formulaic response to a thank-you or you use a completely transparent construction like “You do not have to say thank you”, that is pretty much bound to be true of any variant used, and I personally don’t think that’s enough to call the phrase itself an idiom.

  • Thank you so much for your answer. I disagree that the examples I cited with welcomed are ungrammatical, the more common form is, I'm sure, welcome as in "...*a welcome change...*", but I do not find anything objectionable with using, perhaps what is the older form, welcomed. Nevertheless, the answer is top notch, and the etymology of welcome was very informative too. – Mari-Lou A May 26 '17 at 17:22
  • @Mari-LouA, thanks for clarifying. I tried to get that distinction in earlier comments, but your earlier responses indicated that you were referring to any and all usage of a variant of "you're welcome" in response to anything. Perhaps we were talking across each other. :-) I agree that this is a good answer. I would just add that "you are welcomed" can be more than just a descriptive phrase in a sentence, as described in the beginning of the answer. For example, it can be a complete response describing the person's status, an example of an exception you asked about in a prior comment. – fixer1234 May 26 '17 at 20:51
  • @fixer1234 i deleted my comment when I saw you had deleted yours. I still don't understand where your confusion arises from, but anyway, thank you for showing an interest in the question and answers posted. – Mari-Lou A May 26 '17 at 20:54
  • @fixer1234 It can … but like “You are greeted”, it requires quite a specific context, otherwise it sounds cut off and incomplete. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 26 '17 at 20:54
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    @MrReality No, I mean that the verbal phrase ‘to come well’ (meaning roughly to arrive in good health/time/circumstances) probably never had much currency as a phrase, but in the past participle, ‘to be well come’ (to have arrived in good time/etc.) it was very frequently used as a greeting, to the point where it soon stopped being thought of as adverb + verb and just became a word. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 16 '20 at 19:04

You are welcomed is present progressive (I previously wrote continuous) tense with "welcomed" being the past participle. It's not incorrect but the mismatch invites inquiry about what is meant. The implication is that at some point in the past you have been actively (perhaps formally) welcomed, and that you remain a person who has received said welcoming. You may or may not continue to be welcome in the present. To me, that comes off overly formal and might even imply distance from the welcoming: "you've already been welcomed once; don't ask to be welcomed again."

You are welcome is present progressive (I previously wrote continuous) tense with a passive participle (see comments). It doesn't matter whether your welcoming happened in the past, is a new declaration, or a past welcoming reaffirmed. This is a declaration that right here and right now, you are welcome.

[edit 5/30]My verb tenses may be all wrong. See comments. However, I'll stand by the idea that being welcomed refers to an event in the past, whereas being welcome describes the current state. These are not mutually exclusive of one another but different aspects are being described.[/edit]

It seems warmer and friendlier (more welcoming) to tell someone that they are presently welcome than to tell someone that they presently have been welcomed. Usually (one hopes) it is the intention to convey that warmth and friendliness when responding to thanks.

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    Present continuous doesn't require a participle at all; just an adjective eg you are green. I agree that it is passive voice, but passive voice and present continuous tense are not mutually exclusive. – Steven Scotten May 26 '17 at 13:58
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    Also, I don't agree that welcome is not present participle. A participle is a verb or verb phrase used to modify as an adjective or adverb does. Welcome is present tense. "I welcome you" or "you welcome me". – Steven Scotten May 26 '17 at 14:05
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    Any definition of present continuous outlines it as to be + a present participle (source), and a present participle also has a well-defined meaning (source) that excludes forms such as welcome. – Nobilis May 26 '17 at 14:08
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    Present perfect uses to have + a past participle, e.g. "I have welcomed him". I believe forms such as "You are welcome" are just referred to as being in a "passive voice", since you are using to be + a past participle. I would say in this context welcome is a passive participle, an active one would be something like "he was gone" with gone being the past participle. Wikipedia has a good definition on all these terms and what they refer to. – Nobilis May 26 '17 at 14:22
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    This answer is incorrect in much of what it says. You are welcomed is not present continuous/progressive (they’re the same thing in English); the progressive aspect is characterised by present participles, not past participles. There is no mismatch in “You are welcomed”, though, any more than there is in “You are beaten”, “You are destroyed”, or “You are saluted”. There is no implication that you were actively welcomed in the past: it’s a simple present-tense statement, and it most straightforwardly refers to a present (non-progressive) action. “You are welcome” is also not progressive, → – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 26 '17 at 15:24

When someone says “Thank you”, it’s actually “I thank you” . So when I reply “ I welcome you” can be rephrased as “ You are welcomed by me” and in short “ You are welcomed “. Therefore I believe “ You’re welcomed “ should be correct grammatically. Simple right?

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