Thank yous come in all shapes and sizes. A thank you can be a deeply felt expression of gratitude towards someone who has done you a favour, given you a gift, or done something very special for you – this is a special kind of thank you. Or it can be a simple and polite expression, the type you use every day, to thank the bus driver, the waiter, the cashier who has just served you.
Whatever level of thanks you are trying to express, the English language has a word for it – you certainly don’t need to stick to the simple ‘thank you.’ Here we take a look at alternatives that you can use to expand your English vocabulary, and allow you to express yourself better the next time you’re trying to give thanks to someone.
The most common way of saying thank you in English is simply a shortened version of the original thank you. You’ll hear ‘thanks’ being used in almost every setting, among families, friends, and strangers. Shortening words and phrases is something quite common in the English language, especially in less formal settings, helping conversation to flow more naturally. If you want to express even more gratitude you can say ‘Thanks very much’ too.
I owe you one
Here’s a ‘thank you’ phrase that’s used when you want to express gratitude for a favour someone has done you. When people say they owe you one, the ‘one’ they’re referring to is ‘a favour’ – so they mean that they owe you a favour in return for the good deed you have done them. You’ll often hear it tacked on to the end of ‘thank you’ as a means of expressing even more gratitude to a person – ‘thanks, Bob, I owe you one!’
This phrase tends to be used in informal settings, for small favours that can be returned easily in future. So you might say ‘I owe you one’ to a work colleague who has brought you a coffee or helped you out with a project, rather than to someone who has just done something far more important, like save your life!
This is a very British way of expressing thanks, but its roots may actually lie in the Dutch language. Ta is a slang term for thanks that can be traced back to the 18th Century. Much of the English language actually comes from the old Dutch and Jutland languages, and ta is believed to be a shortened form of the Dutch word tak, meaning thanks. Somewhere along the way the ‘k’ was dropped, and it became ta.
It’s still used today as a cheery and friendly way to express thanks in an everyday way. You wouldn’t say ‘ta for saving my life!’ to someone who had just saved your life, but you would say ‘ta for the cup of tea!’ to a friend who’s just had you round for a drink. You might also hear people say ‘ta muchly!’ as a way of expressing more thanks too.
If you say cheers to someone in America they’re more likely to think of the bar-based TV show, or that you’re making a toast. Cheers is also used when making a toast in the UK, but is also now officially the most popular way to say thanks in the UK too. It’s another one of these English language words with more than one meaning. Cheers is an informal way of saying thank you and you can use it in all manner of situations, especially when thanking a stranger for doing something nice for you, like holding a door open for you, or to a taxi driver when they drop you at your destination.
This is a term used when you’re making a public statement of gratitude and when you want others to know of your gratitude towards someone. This one is used a lot in the hip-hop community and on the dance scene, online and in the music world generally – ‘we’d like to give a shout-out to all our loyal fans.’ It first emerged as a thank you phrase in the 1990s, apparently when a video DJ on TV in the USA presented shows from nightclubs across the country, getting audience members to give shout-outs to their friends at home. So this might not be a phrase you’ll use yourself, but it’s definitely one you might read or hear.