What’s the most generous thing someone’s ever done for you?
Maybe someone hosted you in their home while you were apartment hunting.
Or maybe someone got you the most thoughtful gift for your last birthday.
Or maybe you’re simply thinking of a good friend who was present for you during a difficult time.
How did you react?
“Oh, you shouldn’t have!”
“A thousand thanks!”
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Or simply, “thank you.”
Gratitude is important. It reminds us how fortunate we are and it lets the receiving party know how much you appreciate them. And gratitude, in its various forms, is universal.
In fact, merci (thank you) is probably one of the very first French words you learned. Many people who don’t know much French at least know the famous merci. After all, it’s such a lovely word (aren’t all French words?)
However, when you say merci all the time—when someone opens a door for you, if someone pays for your lunch, if someone saves your life—the effect dulls.
Sometimes you want to express a greater level or more specific form of gratitude. Or maybe you just want to mix your vocab up a bit.
Here, we’ll help expand your French horizons, introducing you to some new ways to thank those special people in your life. We’ll explain what makes each word or phrase unique and how to use it correctly in context.
How to Practice Giving a Genuine French “Thank You”
Practicing these words in context will help solidify their similarities and differences. And you’ll be more prepared when you want to actually thank someone in French.
For starters, listen for words of thanks in real French videos on FluentU.
FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks. Since this content is material that native French speakers actually watch regularly, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French the way it’s spoken in modern life.
One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:
Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions guide you along the way, so you never miss a word.
Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video through word lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience.
For some quick practice, write a thank-you note. It could be based on something someone actually did for you, or you can be creative (extra credit!) and imagine a scenario that would make you want to express your gratitude in writing.
For a similar but more focused activity, write/act out a dialogue that calls for using one or more of the words/phrases here. Think about which one would be most appropriate for each situation (there aren’t always right or wrong answers—some of these words are flexible or have similar meanings, leaving it up to the speaker to decide).
If you’re out of dialogue scenario ideas, try your hand at these examples:
You just finished a lovely lunch at a Parisian café (dreams can come true). What do you say to the waiter as you leave?
You were recently interviewed for a prestigious job in your field. What would you write in the body of an email as a follow-up/thank-you? (Hint: this is a great opportunity to put formal French to use!)
You’re in the hospital recovering from surgery and a group of friends visit you. What do you say to them?
Merci And Beyond: Ways to Say Thank You, French Style!
Merci (Thank you)
I know. Practically everyone knows merci, but we may as well start simple. The good news is that merci is quite a flexible word—it can be used in both informal and formal contexts.
In fact, you usually can’t go wrong with merci, but as you expand and refine your French, it’s a good idea to learn more ways to say thank you. You’ll have a deeper appreciation for the richness of the French language.
Merci beaucoup (Thank you very much)
Merci beaucoup is quite similar to merci in that it’s versatile and can be appropriate for most contexts. It simply communicates a somewhat greater level of gratitude.
So whether you employ merci or merci beaucoup, the choice is yours based on how strongly you feel about what someone’s done for you. You might say merci to someone who takes you out for coffee and merci beaucoup to someone who takes you out to a nice meal.
Merci bien (Thanks a lot)
Pay attention to this one! Although it has merci in it, merci bien can be used sarcastically:
Tu as laissé tous les plats sales pour moi. Merci bien! (You left all the dirty dishes for me. Thanks a lot!)
It’s good to know this so that you don’t say it to someone you’re trying to genuinely thank, and so you’re aware in case someone ever ends up saying it to you.
Merci mille fois (A thousand thanks)
Merci mille fois is, in essence, the strongest version of merci. It literally means “thank you (merci) a thousand (mille) times (fois),” and expresses deep gratitude.
Building on the earlier example, if you say merci to someone who treats you to a cup of coffee and you say merci beaucoup to one who buys you a nice meal, then you might say merci mille fois to someone who makes you a three-course dinner from scratch.
Merci à tous (Thanks to you all)
Okay, this one has a clear and simple distinction. You would say this to thank a group of people. It’s a more general statement, making it good to use, for instance, when a group of friends pitch in on birthday gift for you.
You don’t know exactly who thought of the gift, who wrapped it, who spent what, etc. Thus, merci à tous is a good way to include everyone involved in your thank you.
Je te/vous remercie (I thank you)
This one is more personal. Instead of simply saying merci, in which “I” and “you” are implied, we actually identify the two parties involved (the one giving thanks as well as the one being thanked).
Remember to say te when you’re in a casual situation, such as with a friend or relative, and vous when the occasion is formal, such as with a boss.
To take it a step further and explain why you’re thanking someone, add pour (for) and a noun, or de and a verb.
For example, you might say:
Je te remercie pour ton cadeau généreux. (I thank you for your generous gift.)
Je vous remercie de m’avoir donné l’information. (I thank you for giving me the information.)
You can use the same constructions with merci.
Avec tous mes remerciements (With all my thanks)
The main difference between this phrase and the earlier ones is that avec tous mes remerciements is formal. It’s often used at the end of a formal French email or letter.
J’ai entendu de votre organization d’un ami. Je voudrais aider les SDF et mon ami a dit que vous avez besoin de plus de bénévoles. Je m’intéresse à cette opportunité. Quelle sorte de travail est-ce qu’on ferait?
Aves tous mes remerciements,
I heard of your organization from a friend. I would like to help the homeless [SDF stands for sans domicile fixe, meaning "without fixed housing,” or simply "homeless”—great cultural insight to be familiar with!] and my friend said that you need more volunteers. I am interested in this opportunity. What sort of work would we do?
With all my thanks,
Note that in formal writing, such as business emails and official paperwork, mademoiselle generally isn’t used, even if the woman in question is unmarried.
Avec mes remerciements anticipés (Thanking you in advance)
Like the previous one, avec mes remerciements anticipés is formal. The distinction is that, in this case, we’re thanking the recipient for something they’re going to do.
In fact, this phrase would work just as well in the email example above, because we’re asking for information. It’s great to use when asking for things, such as a file, answers to questions, a face-to-face meeting, etc.
We could also say merci d’anticipe (thank you in advance) which has the same basic meaning but is more colloquial and may be used in both formal and informal contexts.
Now that you’ve discovered these ways to express gratitude in French, je vous remercie d’avoir lu cet article! (I thank you for reading this article!)
Rachel Larsen is a lifelong francophile and freelance writer who dreams of living in France one day. She’s currently a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. To learn more, visit her LinkedIn page.
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