Visitors to the UK, even from other English-speaking countries, often find it surprising (or funny) how many different ways Brits have invented to say thank you. Here are some of the most common words and phrases you’ll hear people use.
Thanks / Many thanks / Thanks so much
You’re likely to hear the shortened version “thanks” more than you hear people say “thank you”. It’s often combined with something else, like “many thanks” or “thanks so much”, although if you hear someone say “thanks a lot” they are usually being sarcastic. Also, people tend to add a friendly term for the person they are talking to on the end, like “mate” or, especially if the speaker is a bit older, “love”. For example, “Thanks, mate!” “Thanks, love!”
In other parts of the English-speaking world, “cheers” is what you say when you clink glasses of alcohol drink together, but it’s also one of the most popular colloquial ways of saying thank you in England. Again, you’re likely to hear people say “Cheers, mate!”
This is something people often say if someone does them a favour, finds something for them or gives them an unexpected gift. Usually it’s followed by another way of saying thank you, for example, “Nice one, thanks!” or “Nice one! Cheers, mate.”
This is a very common way of saying thank you in the North of England and Wales.
I appreciate it / much appreciated
In casual speech, people often add “I appreciate it” onto a thank you, for example, “cheers for helping me move that piano, I really appreciate it”. You also see “appreciated” used in formal speech or writing as a way of expressing thanks. For example, “Your donations to the fundraiser were much appreciated”.
You’re a lifesaver/ You’re a star / You’re a hero
These sound a little bit over the top, but they’re very commonly used in the UK to say thank you, especially when someone does you a favour. For example, “I know you’re about to close the shop, but could I run in quickly to buy some milk? Ah, thanks mate, you’re a star!” or “I think I’m going to miss the train - is there any chance you could give me a life to the station? You’re a lifesaver!”
In very formal situations, you might hear his used seriously, for example “We are much obliged to the Metro Hotel for allowing us to host the event here this evening”. In ordinary conversation, you sometimes hear people say “much obliged” to their friends in a jokey way to mean thank you. It’s not something you hear often, though.
You Shouldn’t Have!
This is something people often say when someone has bought them a present or done something nice for them as a surprise. It doesn’t mean you really think the other person shouldn’t have bought you the present. What it really means is “This is so generous, I wasn’t expecting such a nice present” or even “I’m not sure I deserve it.” For example, “What a beautiful necklace! You shouldn’t have!”
You’re Too Kind
People don’t often use “you’re too kind” seriously. Often it’s a response to someone paying you a compliment. In the UK, people often get a little embarrassed by compliments and they try to turn it into a joke. So, for example, if you said to someone “You look great in that dress” and they roll their eyes, smile and say, “you’re too kind”, they are doing an over-the-top impression of being humble. They are accepting the compliment, but they don’t want to seem arrogant by just saying “thank you”, which sounds a bit like they are agreeing!
What colloquial words and phrases have you heard in the UK that you found really confusing at first? Let us know in the comments section below!