Is It Time to Say Goodbye to the Phrase “You’re Welcome”?

I certainly hope not.

A recent story in the HuffPost by Caroline Bologna notes that the earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary as a response to “thank you” comes from 1907. But apparently, over the years, American etiquette experts, baby boomers, and writers have lamented the apparent decline in the use of the phrase “you’re welcome” in everyday conversation.

In its place, people have started to use phrases such as, “No problem!”, “No worries!”, “Anytime!”, “Of course!”, “Sure thing!”, and “Uh huh!”

For some, “You’re welcome” has acted as a sort of comic brag or sarcastic remark.

Emily Post’s great-granddaughter Lizzie Post, co-host of the Emily Post Institute’s “Awesome Etiquette” podcast, told HuffPost. “People feel that it’s less humble. ‘You’re welcome’ also gets a snarky rep from time to time.” And in 2015, The New York Times’ Amanda Hess asked “When Did ‘You’re Welcome’ Become a Gloat?”

Diane Gottsman, founder of the Protocol School of Texas, told HuffPost. “People don’t want to appear as if they’re expecting praise. But in trying to be humble, what happens is that many of us have difficulty accepting gratitude or compliments. We tend to say things like, ‘Oh, no, it was nothing’ or ‘Oh, this old thing?’”

Gottsman believes it’s important to become comfortable accepting gratitude and responding respectfully, which she defines as using a warm, sincere tone and using the proper phrases. “If someone says ‘thank you,’ the appropriate response to show you’re accepting their gratitude is ‘you’re welcome.’

Phrases like “you’re welcome” fall into the linguistic category of phatic expressions, which are used for their social contribution rather than their literal meanings.

In a similar vein, Jean Berko Gleason, professor emerita in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University,  noted that “you’re welcome” is part of what’s known as formulaic language. “It’s part of a politeness formula. …Mostly, these politeness formulas are just formulas. They don’t mean that you feel anything. For instance, parents train their kids to say ‘thank you’ whether they feel thankful or not. The important thing about ‘thank you’ is not that you feel thankful, it’s that you say it,” said Gleason. “So you shouldn’t worry about the truth value or deeper meaning of ‘you’re welcome’ if it’s just said as a formula.”

International etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore told HuffPost said she believes it’s more sophisticated than the alternate responses. “‘You’re welcome’ is a nice way to respond, it’s more traditional and it sounds more educated. From an etiquette perspective, you can never go wrong with saying ‘you’re welcome.”

Post also notes: “Don’t be fooled: ‘You’re welcome’ absolutely is still a good phrase to use.

So my takeaway is that saying “You’re welcome” is still perfectly acceptable to use in response to “thank you.” In fact, knowing this, I might even double down and make a more conscious effort to use it when I can.

And in a pre-emptive move. I’ll just say “You’re welcome” now, in response to the many thanks I am sure I will get for this post.

P.S. While there are acceptable alternatives to using the phrase “you’re welcome”, one that is not acceptable is “your welcome.”


49 thoughts on “Is It Time to Say Goodbye to the Phrase “You’re Welcome”?

  1. Interesting article.. I do say “no worries” a lot.. I often say sorry a lot too and it’s difficult for me to accept compliments… I’m always so hyper aware of not bothering or inconveniencing anyone, making sure never to offend or bug anyone…. Wonder what that says about me..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am the same way many times, not wanting to bother someone, so I’ll end up doing things myself. I also use alternatives to “You’re welcome”, but I am going to try and make a conscious effort to use it more often…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do say the other responses at time but still say “you’re welcome” too.
    Though I will confess I may use it in a snarky way at times too, just like “Thank you.” when it comes to certain stooges! LOL!

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  3. My take is it’s not the words as much as it is the sincerity. Plenty of those other phrases work well and are just as meaningful if they’re said with sincerity. I’ll take a sincere “no problem” or “no worries” over an insincere “thank you.”

    The opposite is true too. I have heard people say very insincere thank yous and your welcomes. I know parents are well-intended when they say to their child, “What do you say?” but to me, it comes across like they’re training their dog to shake hands. “Good boy!” 😊

    I do find that some people have a hard time accepting compliments. It’s one of those quirky things like others have a hard time making eye contact with you when you’re talking.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I think there are two reasons people deflect: 1. They’re embarrassed by the attention. 2. It’s in their nature to be humble—a highly underrated quality, in my opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My daughter tries to explain to her five year old son that telling the truth is not always ‘nice’ or ‘kind’ . Better to say thank you because it was kind of the person to give you a present rather than ‘I didn’t want that’. If people only spoke the truth it might not be a very civilised society. When I was a child I could never understand why my mother would say ‘Oh you shouldn’t have, you are naughty!’ When visitors arrived bearing gifts!

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  5. i’m with pete on the importance of the sincerity factor, but i do think it’s important to respond to someone who thanks you, and i am a ‘no worries’ responder at times too, if if is a casual situation and i’m very familiar with someone.

    p,s. probably a good general rule not to yell out “thanks for nothing!!” when unhappy with a situation, unless it’s said under one’s breath – )

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  6. As a lover of language, this is a good reminder for me of the importance and the impact of the words I choose. I, too, am guilty of saying “no worries”, somehow touching on my non-existent Rastafarian roots. I will be making a greater effort to say “you’re welcome” as it is the most accurate at conveying the gratitude I wish to show for a kindness. Great post, Jim!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t like ‘no worries’ or ‘no problem’. It implies doing something for someone would normally be a problem or some thing that involves worry. If someone served me a coffee it shouldn’t be a problem for them and I shouldn’t be worried about its delivery. Long live ‘You’re welcome’!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your welcoming of the phrase you’re welcome makes me think about my preference. Now that I’ve thought about it, I kind of like the common NPR response of ‘my pleasure.’

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a great post! I love word studies and “you’re welcome” isn’t something I have used lately. I wonder if the whole world being online instead of in person makes a difference too. I usually say “you’re welcome” in person more often than in text or email.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Agreed, there’s nothing like good old fashioned, you’re welcome. And while we’re at it, don’t take cursive writing out of the curriculum.

    Liked by 1 person

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