Giving thanks

Colombian SpanishKatie Jacoby takes a look at all the ways to say thanks in Spanish, wherever we’re from

American and Canadian expats in Bogotá were celebrating Thanksgiving season, and the sentiment of thankfulness at this time of year seems to be spreading, which can’t altogether be a bad thing.

Everyone knows how to say thank you in Spanish: gracias. Thanks a lot or thank you very much? Muchas gracias. Thanks a million: Mil gracias. Thanks again is Gracias nuevamente or Gracias de nuevo.

How to respond when you’re thanked? Of course, there’s the standard de nada. Literally, you’re saying it was nothing. Other ways of expressing the same thing are no hay de qué (there’s nothing to thank me for), por nada, or está bien, no hay problema. One phrase for you’re welcome that many visitors to Colombia notice is con (mucho) gusto. When you’re so used to being told that there’s no reason to make a fuss and say thank you, it can be a surprise to have someone acknowledge that a good deed has indeed been done, and with great pleasure.

Another local phrase that’s quite common is a la orden. This is what shopkeepers say when you thank them for their help and even when you’re just passing by their storefront: at your service. It’s since crept into normal language. I had a former coworker who would respond to muchas gracias by saying muchas de nadas.

The verb for the action of thanking or being grateful is agradecer, and it’s paired with different prepositions, depending on usage. To say that you’re grateful to someone (for something they’ve done), you’ll say agradecido con.

Estoy muy agradecida contigo por todo lo que has hecho por mí últimamente.

When the thing one is grateful for comes after the unconjugated infinitive agradecer or the word agradecido, use the preposition por.

Te quiero agradecer por la tarjeta tan amable que me mandaste. Estoy agradecido por mi salud.

And when the thing one is grateful for comes after a conjugated form of agradecer, no preposition is necessary.

Agradezco la rapidez con la que me han atendido.

Another way of saying agradecer is dar (las) gracias.

Quiero darle las gracias a la senadora.
Vamos a dar gracias a Dios por las bendiciones recibidas.

There’s also apreciar, which is to appreciate. It’s not used in Spanish as much as appreciate is used in English, and when it is, you specify what you appreciate. If you just appreciate “it,” make sure you say te lo agradezco mucho and not lo aprecio.

What about if you’re grateful but don’t want what’s being offered? No gracias is no thanks, and it has the briefest of pauses between the words that English doesn’t have. Thanks but no thanks is gracias pero no. One subtle difference in Spanish is that you can simply say gracias to politely decline something. For example, if you’re walking on the sidewalk and someone tries to hand you a flyer, you can just say gracias and keep moving to communicate “no, thank you.”

If a grateful person is agradecido, an ungrateful person is desagradecido. Just like you can call such a person an ingrate in English, they can also be called an ingrato in Spanish. Don’t be offended if someone calls you ingrato after not having seen you or talked to you in a long time. This playful scold is like saying, “well, hey there, stranger! Long time no see!” It’s a non-serious slap on the wrist that means you shouldn’t forget your friends and that you’ve been missed.

You may notice that many people will say que gracias instead of just gracias, as if they were relaying a message from another person. Bogotanos have traditionally taken pains to be polite and not draw attention to themselves, so this may be an example of a person feeling sheepish about taking the “credit” for expressing gratitude and thus (unconsciously) attributing the thanks to a non-existent third party.

Chas gracias is another very informal way of saying muchas gracias, with the “mu” being “eaten.”

Que/Mi Dios se lo pague is yet another way to say thank you that you might hear, especially from an older person. May God reward you for your kindness. Some add y se lo multiplique to the end of the phrase.

And just like in English, gracias can be used sarcastically. Pues, gracias. Gee, thanks.

As always, thanks for reading! Thanks a thousand, thanks a million, thanks thanks thanks.

Katie Jacoby is a Spanish-English translator and has been in Colombia for 3 years. Feel free to leave her a comment or ideas for future columns on her language website,


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