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How to say "Thank You" in German:
Everything you need to know

German speakers are generally very polite and take everyday greetings and courtesies seriously. Saying 'thank you' frequently and in an appropriate manner is, of course, an important aspect of this.
As with many languages, German offers a number of variations of how to say thank you. Start with the simplest forms of how to say thank you in German (as a tourist or visitor you can mostly get by with the very simplest form). Then add other forms of thank you to your vocabulary as they take your fancy.

Note that German politeness dictates that when you are thanked for something, a response is generally expected (and in some cases required), just as in English we respond to thanks by saying you're welcome or don't mention it. See below for details.

How to say Thank you in German

Getting started: "Danke"

The basic word for thank you in German is Danke (pronounced dahnk-uh).

Danke is an 'all-rounder' – it can be translated as both 'thank you' and 'thanks' and it's therefore acceptable in formal situations (when said with feeling and eye contact!) and also in the most casual of situations (when it translates as a causal thanks). "No, thank you" is simply "Nein, danke".

All forms of saying thank you in the German language are based on and around the word Danke.

Taking things further – expressing heartfelt thanks

Just as in English, there are numerous ways to express your thanks in German. The most commonly used variations – all of which mean thank you very much – are:

Danke schön
(literally: thank you kindly/nicely)

Danke sehr
(literally: thank you very)

Vielen Dank
(literally: many thanks)

Herzlichen Dank
(literally: heartfelt thanks)

Ich bedanke mich
(literally: I offer my thanks)

Besten Dank
(literally: Best of thanks)

Don't be concerned about the literal translations. These all basically mean thank you very much and are interchangeable and acceptable in any situation.

When you want to really emphasize your thanks in German

The following phrases are a little more formal and are not so suitable for causal situations (they may be interpreted as sarcastic and therefore rude).

Tausend Dank
(literally: a thousand thanks)

Vielen Herzlichen Dank
(literally: many heartfelt thanks)

Herzliches Dankeschön
(literally: heartfelt kind thanks)

Vielen Dank für alles
(literally: Thank you for everything)

Getting grammatical...

Some versions of the German 'thank you' have both formal and familiar forms.

Formal versions use the formal Sie/Ihnen (you) and Ihr/Ihre (your). Familiar versions use the informal Du/Dir (you) and Dein/Deine (your). Note that unless you know someone very well, or are speaking to children or students, the formal version is the safer option. Formal versions are always appropriate when addressing anyone older than yourself.

Ich danke Ihnen/Dir (sehr)
Thank you (very much) (literally: I thank you (very much))

Haben Sie vielen Dank
Many thanks (literally: you have my many thanks)

(Note, while it is possible to use this phrase in the familiar form – Hab vielen Dank – the more formal nature of the phrase makes it sound a little strange).

More elaborate thanks

The following phrases may be used to say thank you more elaborately. For simplicity we have used the basic thank you form Danke, however all the other variants (Danke schön, Herzlichen Dank etc.) can be used in its place. Again, note the use of formal and familiar versions.

Danke für Ihre/Deine Gastfreundschaft
Thank you for your hospitality

Danke für das schöne Geschenk
Thank you for the beautiful gift

Danke für die schöne Zeit
Thank you for the wonderful time

Danke für den schönen Abend
Thank you for the lovely evening

Danke für Ihre/Deine Hilfe
Thank you for your help

Danke für Ihre/Deine Mühe
Thank you for your efforts

Vielen Dank für Ihren/Deinen Anruf
Thank you for calling (on the telephone)

Danke im voraus
Thank you in advance/anticipation

Responding to thanks in German

The German language response to thanks depends on the form used and on the situation (casual or more formal).

The standard response to Danke is simply:
(literally: please, but in response to thanks meaning you're welcome)

In response to Danke schön you will hear and should say:
Bitte schön

In response to Danke sehr you will hear and should say:
Bitte sehr

Both Bitte schön and Bitte sehr translate as 'You're welcome'.

Slightly more formal responses to thanks include:

Gern geschehen
It's my pleasure

Nichts zu danken
Don't mention it, that's fine (literally: nothing to thank for)

Keine Ursache
No reason (to mention it)

You will also hear the casual:

Kein Problem
No problem