You will frequently hear the expression “You are most welcome” when someone replies to another person’s “thank you.” However, English language learners often want to know whether it is always correct to say, “You are most welcome.”
It is correct to reply with “You are most welcome” when someone thanks you as a formulaic and familiar answer. The adverb “most” indicates that the adjective “welcome” describing the subject “You” is in the highest degree. Still, there are also many other ways of responding that are sometimes more appropriate, especially in casual circumstances.
We’ll discuss the different uses of the phrase “You are most welcome” and in what contexts you can use it. We’ll also offer many alternative expressions to use as a response to “Thank you.”
Possible Replies to “Thank You”
You can react in many ways to a “Thank you.” The situation often dictates the most appropriate reaction, and, in many cases, “You are most welcome” is not the best alternative, although it is grammatically correct.
When Should We Say, “Most Welcome?”
The expression “You are most welcome” is the correct reaction to “Thank you” if you use it when you express an abundance of thanks. Using the expression “You are most welcome” is not incorrect, but it is, however, a very formal or business-like way to react to a thank you.
The expression “You’re welcome” as a formulaic response to “thank you” dates back to at least 1907. The use of “You’re most welcome” dates from about the same period. A formulaic phrase is one that many use in a fixed form or pattern “automatically” (source).
Some formulaic examples other than “You’re welcome” would be “You’ve got to be kidding,” “Excuse me?” or “Hang on a minute.”
But why do we include “most” in the expression? “Most” is the superlative form of “much” and “many,” and we often use it to indicate that someone or something possesses more of a certain quality than any other person or thing (source).
As an example, we can say that London is England’s most important city as it offers much more than any other city in England.
However, this is not what we mean to imply by “most welcome” if we use it as a response to “thank you.” Surely, you don’t mean that the person’s “thank you” is better than any other person’s appreciation for what you’ve done.
In this context, we use “most” as an adverb that means “to the highest degree” or “to a very great degree” (source). We then combine “most” with the predicate adjective “welcome,” which refers to receiving someone or something gladly or willingly permitting them to do something.
This is what you mean when you respond with a “You are most welcome.” It does not mean “more than others” but, rather, states they are welcome to the greatest possible extent.
What Can I Say Instead of Most Welcome?
You can respond in many other ways when somebody thanks you, so you don’t have to restrict your answer to “You’re most welcome.” Many other responses are more appropriate and applicable, and not overusing the formulaic will help you to develop a better rapport with others.
As long as people say “Thank you” when you’ve done something for or given something to them, there will be a need for an appropriate response. But although some people still use very formal responses, the trend is to use more casual responses.
The Formal Response
Although we do not hear “You’re most welcome” so often anymore, you’ll still hear the expression “You’re very welcome” quite often, especially in the U.K. Note that you shouldn’t use both “very” and “most” in the same expression. For example, it is incorrect and uncommon for someone to respond with “You’re very much welcome.”
To respond by simply saying “You’re welcome” is still popular all over the English-speaking world. It is actually a formal response, but, again, we often use it in everyday speech because it is so formulaic.
Another way to respond formally is to answer, “The pleasure is mine.” Also, a more old-fashioned response that many still use in formal situations is “Much obliged.”
Similarly, you might rarely hear someone say, “It’s my duty” as a formal response in an office situation to someone who thinks you have done them a favor. It conveys the message that you don’t consider the action a favor but have only acted within the scope of your professional duties.
The Casual Response
Nowadays, responses to “Thank you” are generally more casual, and sometimes you may not even receive a response at all. And, sadly, a response is sometimes not necessary as the individual has not offered a thank you in the first place.
According to Lisa Gache, the co-founder of Beverly Hills Manners in Los Angeles, courteous language is disappearing from young people’s vocabulary (source).
She blames it on the trend to treat everything casually nowadays and says casual conversation and casual dress lead to casual behavior. Thus, the courteous “Thank you” and related responses are disappearing from our vernacular.
You will hear “Sure,” “No problem,” “You bet,” and “Enjoy” replacing the traditional expressions.
“Sure” is a decent response to use when there’s no need for a big show of gratitude and it’s time to move on.
“No problem” is an answer to let the person know that the help you offered was not a bother to you. It also invites the person to ask for another favor in the future.
When you use “No worries,” you indicate that what you have done was not a big deal and that you don’t need further compensation.
Fewer Responses as Fewer People Say, “Thank You”
According to Gache, all these casual responses are partly a result of the disappearance of “Thank you.” Instead of saying “thank you,” people say things like “got it” or “have a good one.” Unfortunately, casual expressions don’t carry the same sentiment as when you sincerely express gratitude or thanks.
Another more polite way to respond is to use the expression “Thank you,” with the emphasis on the “you,” meaning the person receiving thanks is now offering back or reciprocating thanks to the person who offered it.
Similarly, “The pleasure was all mine” is a polite way of saying, “You’re welcome.” It’s an excellent option to respond to a thank you because it makes the situation less awkward for the other person.
Less formal would be “Anytime,” which is a one-word response that is also very popular nowadays, along with “Don’t mention it.” Another heartfelt response is, “It is the least I could do.” Finally, an amiable response between friends is, “I know you’d do the same for me.”
In the digital age, many communicate electronically, and many social media users react to a thank you with a smiley emoji or a thumbs-up. This way, you let the person know that you appreciate the gratitude.
In principle, all these expressions mean the very same thing. However, the difference is in how polite you want to be. For instance, an expression like “That’s alright” conveys a very casual response.
Other Uses of “Most” and “Welcome”
There are different ways we can use the combination of “most” and “welcome.” To know where you can and where you can’t use “most” with “welcome,” you have to understand how welcome can function as a verb, noun, participle, or adjective.
In addition to functioning as an adverb, we can also use “most” as an adjective, noun, or pronoun.
Most + Welcome as an Adjective
Apart from the response to “Thank you,” we can only use the adverb “most” before the word “welcome” if we’re using the latter as an adjective. A few examples where “welcome” is the adjective will help explain this principle.
First, if one person receives another with friendliness into their home, we can describe that person as a welcome guest. In this case, the adjective modifies or describes the noun “guest.”
It is also correct to say that the person is a most welcome guest. Here, the adverb “most” modifies the adjective “welcome,” indicating the highest degree of being welcome. While adjectives can only modify nouns, adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, prepositions, and other adverbs.
Next, a person can receive a welcome break after a long work session. To say the person has a most welcome break would also be correct.
Lastly, you can invite someone by saying, “You are welcome to join us.” It is not wrong to invite the person by saying, “You are most welcome to join us.” Here, “welcome is a predicate adjective because it comes after the noun that it describes. The linking verb “are” connects the predicate adjective to the subject “You.”
We can also insert the adverb “most” in between the linking verb and the predicate adjective.
Most + Welcome as a Verb
However, since we generally use the adverb “most” to form the superlative, we don’t typically use it before “welcome” when it functions as a verb. As a verb, “welcomed” is the past tense and past participle, and “welcoming” is the present participle.
The verb “welcome” indicates the act of greeting or receiving someone. As “welcome” is the action, you generally don’t “most welcome” somebody. For instance, you could say, “I welcome you to my home,” but it sounds awkward to say, “I most welcome you to my home.”
However, we can use “most” as an adverb of manner to describe how someone welcomed you. For example, we could say, “I welcome them most when they bring gifts” or “They welcomed me most when they wanted something,” although this is somewhat outdated (source).
In contrast, if we changed “most” into the focusing adverb “mostly,” we could say, “I mostly welcome them if they bring gifts.”
We can also combine the verb “welcome” with “most” when it functions as a pronoun, as in “I welcomed most of them to my home.”
Most + Welcome as a Noun
We cannot use the adverb “most” together with “welcome” when it is a noun, but we can use “most” as an adjective.
The noun “welcome” originates from Old English wilcuma and describes a greeting as a thing and is, thus, a noun.
You could give someone a friendly welcome, or if you would’ve preferred that the person was not there, one might say that the person has received a very unfriendly welcome. In the sentence “Don’t overstay your welcome,” the noun “welcome” describes the state of being welcome.
Similarly, we can use the adjective “most” to describe “welcome” as a noun, as in “My hometown is where I receive the most welcome.”
You Are Most Welcome or Welcomed
It is incorrect to use “welcomed” in the expressions “you are most welcome” or “you are welcome” in response to a “thank you.” “Welcomed” is the past tense and past participle of the verb “welcome,” and you can only use it in that capacity. The dictionaries do not recognize “welcomed” as an adjective.
While you might say, “You are most welcomed by the congregation,” this would be in the passive voice using the helping verb “are” in conjunction with the main verb “welcomed.” There’s no reason why you would choose such an expression anyway since “The congregation welcomes you” is much simpler and less awkward.
The passive voice uses “welcomed” as a past participle, as in, “Peter was welcomed to the club with open arms” or “Peter was most welcomed to the club with open arms.” Again, we could easily simplify the in the active voice to “They welcomed Peter to the club with open arms” or “They welcomed Peter the most with open arms.”
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
To read more about using degrees of comparison, check out “Clearer or More Clear: Understanding the Proper Usage of Degrees of Comparison.”
We can conclude that the expression “You are most welcome” as a response to a “thank you” is very common. There are, however, other expressions that sometimes fit the situation better, such as very casual responses among close colleagues.
If you’re in doubt about how to respond to a thank you, use “You are welcome” because it suits any situation and is never rude.
The other uses of the phrase” most welcome” can sometimes be confusing for English language learners. The general rule of thumb is to use “most” as an adverb together with “welcome” only when using “welcome” as an adjective.