How To Give And Receive Thanks In French

All languages have ways of expressing gratitude. In English, this is usually done with a form of the noun “thanks” or the verb “to thank.”  We say things like:

– Thank you very much.
– You’re welcome.

– I thank you so much for being here.
– Thank you for having me.

Similarly, French uses the noun (le) merci or the verb remercier. While giving thanks with merci or remercier is rather straightforward, I’ve noticed that learners of French often get flustered when they have to answer to these words. Here’s a guide to some of the nuances of giving and receiving thanks in French.

Do not mix up le merci and la merci

These two words are perfect examples of identical spelling but different genders and different meanings. Le merci is what we are talking about here. La merci on the other hand is “mercy.” It is usually seen in the expression à la merci de… at the mercy of, at the whim of.

Pronouncing merci

Speakers of English must pay special attention to the pronunciation of merci because they tend to make it sound like “mercy.” This is terrible. The “e” and the “r” in merci are totally unlike the English “e” and “r.” Work with a native speaker until you get it right.

Giving thanks in French with merci

Here is a list of the most common forms with merci:

Merci (Madame/Monsieur/Mademoiselle)
Merci à vous/toi
Merci bien
Merci beaucoup
Merci infiniment
Merci beaucoup/infiniment, vous êtes bien aimable
Merci beaucoup/infiniment, vous êtes bien gentil/le
Un grand merci, etc

Here is a rather idiomatic usage:
Dieu merci (Thank God)
Dieu merci, c’est terminé (Thank God, it’s over.)

Just as in English, merci can be used ironically.
Ce repas soi-disant bon marché m’a coûté 100 euros, merci.
The so-called inexpensive meal cost me 100 euros, thank you.

Très bien, merci (Fine, thank you)

The various forms of merci can be embedded in phrases. Notice how the preposition de and pour are used in front of nouns where “for” is used in English. The use of de is a bit more formal.

Merci de votre comprehension.
Thank you for your understanding
Merci de votre attention.
Thanks for your attention
Merci beaucoup de votre aide.
Thank you for your help
Merci de ton appel
Thanks for your call
Merci pour les fleurs
Thanks for the flowers
Un grand merci à tous les members de l’équipe pour un effort extraordinaire.
A big thanks to all the members of the team for an extraordinary effort.

When merci is followed by a verb, use de.

Merci d’avoir été là,
Thanks for being there.
Merci d’être venus en si grand nombre.
Thanks for coming out in such large numbers.

Don’t say: *Merci pour avoir été là.

Giving thanks in French with remercier

The verb remercier is unusual because it has two nearly opposite meanings depending on the context. In addition to the meaning “to thank” that interests us here, remercier also means “to fire” or “to lay off.” as in:

Le gouvernement a remercié 200 employés en raison des mesures s’austérité.
The government laid off 200 employees because of the austerity measures
Malgré ses 30 ans de service, elle a été remerciée sans le moindre préavis.
Despite her 30 years of service, she was laid off without the slightest warning

Keeping in mind the risk of confusion, here is how you give thanks with the verb remercier:

Je vous remercie.
Thank you
Je vous remercie infiniment/beaucoup.
Thanks a lot
J’aimerais remercier toute l’équipe pour l’excellent travail qu’elle a fait.
I would like to thank the team for the excellent job they did.
Je remercie le ciel de m’avoir permis de finir cette course.
I thank heaven for allowing me to finish this race.
Nous remercions Dieu de nous avoir débarassé de cet individu.
We thank the Lord for ridding us of this individual.

Notice how we used remercier pour in front of the noun l’excellent travail and remercier de in front of the verb avoir.

Here is a rather sophisticated example where we use the pronouns le and en that become l’en in front of remercier:

Pierre a fait un travail remarquable et nous l’en remercions.
Pierre did an excellent job and we thank him for it.

Receiving thanks in French

Here is how you would answer the above forms. They are roughly in order of informal to more formal

De rien
Pas de quoi
Au plaisir
Avec plaisir
Merci à vous / toi
Je vous en prie / Je t’en prie
Il n’y a pas de quoi
Ça m’a fait plaisir
C’est moi qui vous remercie
Tout le plaisir a été pour moi

All of these forms are more or less interchangeable. The longer forms are a bit more formal.

I should mention two others that are often heard in Québec: pas de problème and bienvenue. The language purists say that these forms are direct translations of English forms and are not really French. I would suggest avoiding them, but if that’s what people around you use, there’s nothing really wrong with following usage.

Practice giving and receiving thanks in French for fluency

The wonderful thing about these forms is that if you are living in a French-speaking environment, you can practice them many times a day. I suggest that you cycle through all the forms just for the pronunciation practice and for developing fluency. Here are a few examples for inspiration;

– Merci, merci beaucoup pour ce cadeau magnifique. Ce n’était pas nécessaire.
– Mais si, mais si. Merci à toi, maman. C’est à nous de te remercier.
– Thank you, thank you so much for such a wonderful gift. It wasn’t necessary.
– But of course it was. Thanks to you, mom. We should be thanking you.

– Merci beaucoup d’avoir été avec nous aujourd’hui.
– C’est moi qui vous remercie.
– Thanks for visiting us today.
– It was my pleasure.

– Merci de nous avoir accordé cette entrevue.
– Tout le plaisir a été pour moi.
– Thank you for this interview.
– The pleasure was mine.

– Merci de ton appel. Ça m’a fait du bien,
– De rien, de rien. On pense à toi.
– Thanks for your call. It made me feel good.
– You’re welcome. We’re always thinking about you.

Related Posts

1. Words that sound or look alike but have different genders

Stanley Aléong is a polyglot, author, musician and language coach in French, English and Spanish. He likes to share his passion for languages and believes that anybody can learn to speak a foreign language well with the right methods and tools. He has also invented a cool visual learning tool called the Language Wall Chart Calendar that is based on his own learning experience. Reach him at

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