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When you wish someone to succeed, the standard phrase seems to be "Good luck!" For instance, here is a definition borrowed from Merriam-Webster:

good luck [idiom]:

  1. —used to say that one hopes someone will succeed. • We're sorry that you're leaving. Good luck in your new job.

What I don't like about this phrase is that it implies that the wished-for success is a matter of luck as opposed to all the other factors, such as the effort put in by everyone involved. In fact, if one was to interpret "good luck" literally in the example above, it is pretty offensive: you're basically saying that whether or not the person you're speaking to succeeds in their new job is a matter of luck rather than their hard work, skill, wise choice of the new employer, and so on. Of course, I'm not assuming anyone would interpret it like this unless they're just learning the language or are trying to be picky (the image of Gandalf musing on the meaning of "Good morning!" comes to mind).

In my native language (Polish) the usual phrase used in place of "Good luck!" is "Powodzenia!" which translates roughly to "I wish you success!". I like this frame of mind much more - you're expressing the hope for success and not making any judgements about how the success is achieved. Unfortunately, "I wish you success!" doesn't quite roll off the tongue, and I feel like it would be awkward to use in a conversation.

Is there another well-established phrase that can be used in place of "Good luck!" which does not imply that luck is actually relevant to the situation?

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    I think this is a cultural / translational issue. Native Anglophones don't normally suppose that wishing someone good luck in some new venture implies they need luck to be successful because the well-wisher thinks they couldn't succeed on merit, effort, or whatever. Except in the context of sarcastic usages such as You say you're expecting to be a millionaire before you're 30? Good luck with that! Jul 11, 2018 at 13:01
  • Yeah these are two separate usages. Merriam-Webster lists that under 2. One does not necessarily imply the other, and as FumbleFingers says they have very different intonations. Just like in Polish. Powodzenia can mean "I wish you success", but it can also mean "yeah you will never succeed, loser, and I don't wish that you do". It all depends on the delivery.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 11, 2018 at 13:23
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    "Good luck, not that you need it!" is fairly common.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 28, 2022 at 11:23

5 Answers 5

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A similar expression that doesn't involve luck is all the best.

[Merriam-Webster]

used to wish someone happiness and success · We wish you all the best in your new job.

It can also be used on its own and understood in context.

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Break a leg

used to wish good luck especially to a performer

[Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

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At work lately we’ve been closing messages with wishing you luck and skill.

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    Doesn't that imply that they don't have skill already? Jun 28, 2022 at 6:00
  • It’s an expression more suited to some professions than others 🙂.
    – user205876
    Jun 28, 2022 at 18:27
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In this instance, saying “good luck” is actually a way of saying, we hope that good fortune shines on you; we hope good “things” happen for you in your new job. It’s wishing good fortune, it is not, in any way, making a value judgment about the person, their skills, merit, or history.

I think the misunderstanding is cultural. I’m an anglophone and American. I’ve always been amused/perplexed by the consternation my European friends feel when an American says, “Have a good day!”. I’ve been told by them that it feels as if one is commanding that the person has a good day. And if that were true, of course it would be absurd.

But it’s not true; quite the opposite—in that the speaker is hoping the listener will have a good day.

Wishing one “good luck” is the same type of sentiment (it’s a kindness, not a slight). More than that, it’s an acknowledgment of our shared humanity.

But to answer your question: how to show support while acknowledging that one’s colleague is well prepared for, and deserving of, their new job? Lots of informal sayings exist. Here are a few: Break a leg! Go get ‘em! You’ve got this! Don’t forget us little people (on the way up)!

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I remember studying foreign languages, and it came up as luck, but also a variation of

' To the best of your ability.'

It's not a demand, and doesn't incur luck. The problem lies with the phrase not being short, and easy to say.

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