There are several options to say ‘you’re welcome’ in French, depending on the nature of the context. To make the right choice of words, you need to become good at French and analyze the nature of your context.
There are many options for you to say you’re welcome in French. You need to understand what different phrases mean and how you can use them in your conversations.
1. De rien
It is the most popular way to say ‘you are welcome’ in French. In fact, it is the most common phrase used in France. De rien is generally used in response to simple courtesies or friendly favors, such as holding the door open for someone and appreciating someone, etc. The phrase isn’t exactly self-deprecating, but it does reduce the action.
However, we should avoid reading too much into the word-for-word translation. Language is far more delicate than that, and literal translations are rarely successful. Although de rien literally means “from nothing,” you should not avoid using it. De rien is used and understood in the same way that “you’re welcome” is in English.
A: Quelle belle robe! (What a beautiful dress!)
B: Merci! (Thank you!)
A: De rien. (You are welcome.)
While de rien is appropriate in many situations, it is considered informal and is not the best option to use in a professional setting or when making a good impression. If you’re doing business in French or meeting with someone important, you might want to use a different phrase.
2. Je vous en prie
The most formal, traditional way to say “you’re welcome” in French is “je vous en prie.” This is the phrase to use in a business setting or when you want to show someone special consideration.
A: Je vous remercie de m’avoir considéré pour ce poste. (Thank you for considering me for this position.)
B: Je vous en prie. (You are welcome.)
Je vous en prie is a good example because its literal translation is “I pray you for it.”
Je is the first-person singular pronoun, which means “I.” The formal or plural second person pronoun “you” is Vous. Because vous is a direct object, it comes after the subject and before the verb.
In some sentences, the pronoun en replaces de (of, for) and its object. It refers to the action that prompted gratitude and is equivalent to “for it.” Finally, prie is a verbal conjugation of prier (to pray).
It appears to be a strange, stuffy old phrase from a medieval court. Technically, it’s a request for permission to do whatever you were doing in the first place. This phrase, in a sense, completes the conversational cycle.
The cycle starts when a specific need is presented: say you’re on the metro. The car is packed, and an older woman board. The action comes next, in this case offering the woman your seat. Acceptance and gratitude follow: The woman sits and say thanks to everyone. Finally, you respond with je vous en prie, a humble reference to the action that completes the conversation.
The important thing to remember is that je vous en prie is the most formal and proper way of saying “you’re welcome” in French.
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3. Je t’en prie
Je t’en prie is nearly synonymous with je vous en prie. Just you, the formal you pronoun, has simply been replaced by tu, the informal you. As a result, you get a semi-casual way of saying “you’re welcome.” It’s informal because you address people as tu, but it is also formal because it has the same formation and sense of permission as je vous en prie.
In fact, it is more formal than de rien but less formal than je vous en prie. If you simply want to be extra polite or if your gesture was particularly generous, such as giving someone an expensive or deeply meaningful gift, je t’en prie is a good option.
A: Merci mille fois pour le cadeau! J’adore ce jeu. (Thank you very much for the present! I love this game.)
B: Je t’en prie. (You are welcome.)
4. Pas de problème
Pas de problème translates literally as “no problem.” This phrase, like the one in English, can be used to reassure your addressee that your kind gesture was not a problem for you. When someone goes out of their way to assist you, you may be concerned that your need has taken up their time, or you may even feel burdened.
Pas de problème would suggest you not worry about it. Similarly, you can say it to put someone’s mind at ease about who you’ve helped.
A: Merci de m’avoir attendu. Le train est arrivé en retard. (Thanks for waiting for me. The train arrived late.)
B: Pas de problème. (No problem)
5. Il n’y a pas de quoi
The literal translation of l n’y a pas de quoi is “there is no what,” which probably doesn’t tell you much about what it actually means.
The phrase is derived from the negative particle pas de (no, none) and the interrogative article quoi (what). In short, “there is no reason [to thank me],” as the phrase goes.
Il n’y a quoi is also informal, so you would probably reserve it for basic, everyday gestures and avoid saying it in a formal setting.
A: Merci pour la pizza. (Thanks for the pizza.)
B: Il n’y a pas de quoi. (You are welcome.)
Because il n’y a pas de quoi is a bit long, it is often shortened to ‘y a pas de quoi in practice.
6. Avec Plaisir
Now we’ll look at some “you’re welcome” phrases from different parts of the French-speaking world. The key factor in deciding which of these phrases to use is not a formality, as it was with the previous ones, but location specifically.
Avec plaisir (with pleasure) is a common response in southern France, particularly in Toulouse, but it may sound awkward in other areas.
Fortunately, avec plaisir is simple, especially for English speakers, because it is nearly synonymous with “my pleasure.” However, keep in mind that the direct translation of “my pleasure,” mon plaisir, is not commonly used in French and would sound strange.
However, in southern France, avec plaisir is a tempting option for expanding your vocabulary and sounding more like a local. With plaisir expresses that you enjoyed what you did or were happy to assist.
A: Merci pour la lettre que tu m’as envoyé. (Thanks for the letter you sent me.)
B: Avec plaisir. (With pleasure/you are welcome.)
7. À votre service
One of the local expressions in Switzerland is à votre service, which means “at your service.” This phrase contains the formal possessive pronoun votre and is appropriate to use with people you don’t know well. This is especially true if you’re performing an official function, such as waiting tables at a restaurant or working at a hotel.
A: Merci beaucoup! Le dîner était excellent. (Thank you very much! The dinner was excellent.)
B: À votre service. (You are welcome.)
Canadian province of Québec, use this phrase as one of its regional phrases. However, it is not the usual bienvenue. One of your first French words was probably bienvenue, which means “welcome” (as in “welcome to my home”).
While this is a common and certainly helpful expression, the same word is sometimes used in Québec to communicate “you’re welcome.”
A: Merci pour le café. (Thanks for the coffee.)
B: Bienvenue. (You are welcome.)
Now, you must be thinking about which phrases you need to use. Remember, je vous en prie for formal situations and de rien for informal ones. These two are widely used and are not restricted to a particular region.
You need to practice analyzing your social situations to select the right phrase to say you’re welcome in French. You can consult books, French media, and several talk show to improve your understanding of these phrases and their use.