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English Language Usage: 'Thank You!' ~ A Two-Word Phrase

Updated on December 1, 2016

Thank You - Short and Sweet

'Thank you!' is a two-word phrase ~ an interjection or exclamation ~ that one uses in order to express gratitude towards another person.

It is short and simple, but its use is very important. It is good to show appreciation, when another person has taken the trouble to be helpful.

One might say: 'Thank you for your help', or, indeed, 'Thank you very much for your help'.

One can also decline an offer: 'No, thank you.'

(Informally, one can also say 'Thanks!' or 'No, thanks!'.)

Short and sweet 'thank you' may be, but it would appear that some writers of English still manage to have trouble with its use!

'Thank you' can cause 'English language' / 'English grammar' concerns, for some writers.


One Word or Two?

For one reason or another, some writers seem to believe, quite mistakenly, that 'thank you' is one word. It is not.

In actual fact, it is short for a three-word sentence: 'I thank you', or 'we thank you'.

This can be compared with 'I like you' or 'I see you' or 'I visit you', etc.

'I thank you'.

This is a very simple, short sentence: subject-verb-object.

And, over time, it has become shorter still ~ indeed, the abbreviated version has been known since around 1400 AD.

'Thank you.'

But it has not yet contracted itself into just one word.

Arthur Askey: 'I Thank You!'

'The full 'I thank you', is rarely used, today, but this little sentence was one of war-time comedian, Arthur Askey's, catchphrases.

Indeed, Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch were in a film / movie of the same name.

'Thank you' as Noun

'Thank you' can also be used as a noun, and this has been the case since the late 18th century:

She sent a bouquet as a thank you.

I'd like to offer you all a huge thank you.

Even as a noun, 'thank you' still consists of two words.


[We are about to meet the obsolete medieval noun 'thanc', meaning 'thought'.]


'Thorn' ~ expressed 'Þ' or 'þ' ~ was a letter in a number of old European alphabets, including Old English. Its sound was the same as modern 'th' ~ both the voiced and the unvoiced dental fricative ~ and, from around the 14th century, the digraph 'th' became ever more popular.

At around the same time, thorn began to change in shape, until, eventually, it looked the same as the letter 'Y'. 'The' would be expressed with the symbol 'Y' with a superscript 'e'. This led to some 'olde fashioned' English cafes, for example, calling themselves. 'Ye Olde Tea Shoppe'. It was never meant to be pronounced 'ye' ~ always 'the'.

Letter Thorn

'Ineligible for copyright' ~ public domain
'Ineligible for copyright' ~ public domain | Source

History / Etymology: 'Thank' - Where did it come from?

What are the origins of the word 'thank'?

The modern English verb, 'to thank', comes from the Old English verb 'þancian'. The meaning was the same or very similar ~ 'to thank' or 'to give thanks'.

English is, basically, a Germanic language and experts believe that the word 'þancian' (ie. 'thancian') came from a Proto-Germanic term '*thankojan', which, in turn, they believe came from Proto-Indo-European '*tong-'.

This ancient word, 'tong', though, does / did not mean 'to thank', but, rather, 'to think' or 'to feel'. Indeed, the Old English words 'þanc' (thanc) and 'þonc' (thanc) both originally meant 'thought'.

According to the Online etymological Dictionary, by circa 1000 AD, 'thancs' had evolved to mean 'good thoughts' and 'gratitude'.

Thus, pre-1000, a 'thanc' was a noun (that could also be used in the plural) which might express goodwill or thankfulness.

'Thank' came from 'think'.


Since English is a Germanic language, it is interesting to note similarities with modern German.

To thank = Danken

To think = Denken


Thankfulness and thoughtfulness have gone together for a very long time, it seems.

To thank - Declension (Present)


'Thank you' may be said in person, or it may be written.

One might send a 'thank you' letter in order to express gratitude.

A formal 'letter of thanks' might be sent, even if the words have already been spoken.

Here, again, the term 'thank you' consists of two words.

'Thank You' Letter

Victorian Public Domain Image
Victorian Public Domain Image

Compound Words

There are many compound words, where two words have come together and evolved into just one.

Here are just a few examples:~ another, airport, armchair, beanstalk, cannot, earthquake, elsewhere, fireman, fireworks, footprints, housekeeper, lifetime, moonlight, nothing, rattlesnake, skateboard, something, therein, toothbrush.

Is it possible that 'thank you' will, one day, contract into just one word? ~ Yes, it is. Language is changing and evolving all of the time. Maybe 'thank you' letters will change.

Maybe the noun 'thank you' ~ as in sending out the 'thank yous' ~ will change.

However, I think that it is unlikely that the phrase 'thank you' ~ meaning 'I thank you' will change in the near future.

Novelty Thanks

Amazon Image
Amazon Image

Copyright, Etc.

Please note that my words are copyright ~ Tricia Mason. All rights reserved.

I have linked to the sources that have helped me. These include the Online Etymological Dictionary and the Online Oxford English Dictionary.

I am also grateful to YouTube for the Arthur Askey film.

I hope that I have not made any errors and apologise, in advance, if I have done so.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you very much indeed!

Tricia Mason


'Thank You' for the USA and the UK


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    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      What a great and interesting hub.

      "I thank you" for it. Voted up


    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello John :)

      Thank you very much for your interest! :)

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Hi Trish - I have a set of runes and one of them is Thorn - the rune meaning gateway. As runes were Germanic (Norse) in origin that would seem to bear out what you are saying about the letter.

      Fascinating hub, I really love reading about the origin of words.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Ta, Trish...good article as ever


    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Angie,

      Thank you.

      That's very interesting, about the rune.

      I am fascinated by the origin of words, too, including names ~ eg place names.

      Thank you for reading and commenting! :)

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Bob :)


      I should have included something on that, shouldn't I!

      Thank you :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I never thought about the origin of the words thank you, but obviously all words have origins and many evolve over time. Thank you for this interesting hub!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Peggy :)


      Glad you enjoyed it!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      What a great piece about thank you! I have to agree with John and say I thank you! I wrote a hub which was actually a thank you letter to a doctor...we don't use thank you enough in speech, never mind in writing. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Tillsontitan:)

      Thank you!

      Very much :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for the information on thank you! I have never seen the phrase as one word--amazing!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello RTalloni :)

      Thank you for taking the trouble to read and respond :)

    • profile image

      stessily 4 years ago

      Trish, Such an enjoyable, informative, interesting presentation you've created here! Fortunately "thankyou" has not darkened my doorstep for many moons now, but I remember a time when it was everywhere! I love the reminder of Arthur Askey's catchphrase because I sometimes do say "I thank you", which always seems to produce first puzzlement and then a smile.

      Up + UI + sharing.

      Appreciatively, Stessily

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello Stessily :)

      Good to 'see' you :)

      Glad you enjoyed this!

      Thank you for your very kind words :)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      When I saw the title, I wondered "what can you possibly say about these words?," but indeed there is a great deal to say. Thank you for educating me about the history of these important words, and about the thorn. Very well presented and laid out.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi ~ and thanks to you, Millionaire Tips, for your very positive response! :)

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 4 years ago from Thailand

      This would be very interesting to EFL learners, as it covers both the usage, the reasoning and the history ... for which I am sure that they would thank you.

      Shared, up and useful.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 4 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Brett :)

      I love words and I love history ~ so it's not surprising that I enjoy discovering the history of words.

      And thank you for your very kind words :)

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 23 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      As someone who loves to learn the history of English - I really enjoyed this.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 23 months ago from The English Midlands

      I'm fascinated by language and the evolution of words. In fact, I am fascinated by pretty much anything history-related, Susan.

      Thanks for your positive comment :)

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 22 months ago from Orlando Florida

      "I thank you" can be shortened to one word and that word is "Thanks." Thank you for a fun read.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 22 months ago from The English Midlands

      Quite so, Catherine. :)

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