One of the first words you learn when learning French is merci – shortly followed by de rien. So you may already have guessed (or already know) that de rien means “you’re welcome” in French. But maybe you may also be wondering if de rien is actually used in day-to-day life.
In this post, we’ll go over the exact meaning of de rien, how to use it, as well as other alternatives you can use to politely, or casually reply back when someone thanks you.
The meaning of de rien
Although de rien means “you’re welcome” in French, the literal translation is somewhat different. De means “of” or “for”, and rien means “nothing”, so putting it together, the literal definition of de rien means “for nothing”, ie. there is nothing to thank for. So while de rien may sound a bit flippant, it is one of the most common ways of saying “you’re welcome”.
When to use de rien
You can use de rien when you do someone a favor, give someone information, hand someone an object or help someone out. Whenever someone says thank you, you can respond with de rien.
- Merci pour le cadeau.
- Je te remercie pour ton aide.
- Thank you for the gift.
- I thank you for your help.
Alternatives to de rien
While de rien is the most universally known way of saying you’re welcome in France, it may surprise you that it isn’t necessarily the phrase you’ll hear the most often on the street. It really does depend a lot on context.
Je vous en prie
When you’re in a store, restaurant, or boulangerie, you won’t often hear de rien as a response from service members to thank you. You’ll most likely hear je vous en prie . Je vous en prie means literally “I beg of you” and is a formal way of saying “you’re welcome”.
In a store or restaurant setting, where you are a guest, more formal, courteous language is favored. This is not to say that you won’t ever hear de rien, but it is just used less often in this setting.With je vous en prie the pronoun vous (you) is used with strangers, superiors, or elders.
You can slightly alter this expression and make it much more casual by saying je t’en prie. You can use this expression to say “you’re” welcome” with someone with whom you have a casual relationship.
Pas de problème
Even less formal than de rien is pas de problème . It means “no problem”, and can be used to say “you’re welcome” informally. You can use it when helping someone out wasn’t a big sacrifice for you.
Avec plaisir is another way of saying “you’re welcome” and means “with pleasure”. You will often hear avec plaisir at restaurants.
Pas de quoi
Another casual alternative to de rien is pas de quoi . It is short for il n’y a pas de quoi which means “There is no reason to thank me”. Shortening the expression gives it a much more casual and friendly flair. Despite being casual, pas de quoi is not slang and can be used with a variety of people, including elderly people and people with whom you have an informal relationship.