French Expression of the Day: Il n’y a pas de quoi

French Expression of the Day: Il n’y a pas de quoi
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We’re glad that you’re thankful for The Local’s Expression of the Day, but really, 'il n’y a pas de quoi!'

Why do I need to know il n’y a pas de quoi?

If you’re looking for a polite but relaxed response to merci or excusez-moi, this handy little phrase should do the trick.

What does it mean?

Il n’y a pas de quoi can be translated most directly as ‘there’s no reason to’, and can be completed with the verb corresponding to the thing there’s no reason to do. For example:

Il n’y a pas de quoi s'inquiéter.

  • ‘There’s nothing to worry about.’

Il n’y a pas de quoi avoir honte.

  • ‘There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.’

But this phrase is actually most often used on its own as a friendly response to apologies or expressions of gratitude, similar to the way anglophones might say ‘don’t mention it’, ‘it was nothing’, or ‘no worries’. As in,

Merci mille fois ! Il n’y a pas de quoi.

  • 'Thanks a million! Don’t mention it.'

Je suis vraiment très désolé… T’inquiète, il n’y a pas de quoi.

  • ‘I’m really very sorry… Don’t worry, it’s no big deal.’

How is it pronounced?

Il n’y a pas de quoi (‘ill knee ah pah duh kwah’) is somewhat of a mouthful for a simple polite response, so it often gets shortened with the habitual dropping of the ne, Il y a pas de quoi (‘Eel yah pah duh kwah’), then the ilY’a pas de quoi (‘Yah pah duh kwah’)- or the truncation of the entire first part of the phrase, leaving you with just pas de quoi (‘pah duh kwah’).

The more you shorten the phrase, of course, the more informal it becomes.

Alternatives and variations

For ‘thank you’, other polite responses include de rien (‘you’re welcome’, less formal), je vous en prie (‘you’re welcome’, more formal), or avec plaisir (‘my pleasure’).

Apologies can also be dismissed with ce n’est pas grave (‘it’s no big deal’) or pas de souci (‘no worries’).

Finally, this column wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the variation il n’y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat, which literally means ‘There’s no reason to flog a cat’, but is used like ‘there’s nothing to get worked up about’ or ‘there’s no need to get your knickers in a twist’ would be in English.

Ne t'énerve pas, il n’y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat.

  • ‘Don’t get angry, it’s nothing to get worked up about.’



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