I know that they are both essentially polite and mean Thanks a lot, Many thanks etc. but I’ve always wondered if there is a specific difference between the two.

Is there a specific context or situation where one is clearly more appropriate to use than the other? Or are both terms entirely interchangeable?

  • 3
    I guess "Dankeschön" is less formal than "Vielen Dank" and it's widely used among friends. But I'm not a native German speaker! Apparently, it's a matter of taste, as it is about "thank you", "thanks", "thanks a lot" and "thank you very much".
    – user508
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 20:22
  • 1
    I agree with Gigili, "Vielen Dank" is a hunch more formal sounding.
    – kontur
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 0:24
  • 2
    You will also hear "Schönen Dank!" in some of the southern regions, which I guess came as a kind of a reverse combination of these two expressions. :-)
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 14:56
  • 4
    Besides there exists Danke sehr
    – Em1
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 18:44

8 Answers 8


I cannot tell you anything about etymology and so forth, but my (native German) gut tells me this:

As an interjection in a conversation, I’d say both terms are virtually equivalent, at least it’s hard to think of any situation where one would be appropriate while the other would not. Even if you encounter the counterpart of “Danke schön” — “Bitte schön” — it is still fine to use either.

However, if used with für, it would sound odd not to use “… Dank”:

  • Hab [vielen] Dank für das nette Geschenk! <— okay
  • [Haben Sie] vielen Dank für die Blumen! <— okay and even idiomatic
  • Danke schön für das Eis! <— sounds weird (and wrong) to me, but I’m not sure if it is technically admissible

In written text, such as e-mails, I would rather not use Danke schön but always Vielen Dank.

  • 5
    "Danke für das Eis!" would be okay, but adding "schön" seems a bit more awkward.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 7:14
  • 1
    @bitmask - Many thanks for your answer. I'm English and trying to learn German, so to hear this from a native German is good enough for me! FWIW, when I've been in Germany, I hear "Danke schön" used far more often than "Vielen Dank", but have heard "Vielen Dank" used occasionally. To my (admittedly non-native) ears, "Vielen Dank" sounds just that slight bit more formal which correlates with your suggested usage of "Vielen Dank" in written text.
    – CraigTP
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 12:01
  • @CraigTP: Well, I can only speak for western Germany, perhaps there are differences in northern, southern or eastern regions.
    – bitmask
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 12:55
  • @bitmask - Interesting. My most visited place in Germany is München, so it appears that southern Germany is similar to western Germany in this regard.
    – CraigTP
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 20:11

I asked some native German speakers about it, they answered:

(1): Das ist fast gleich

(2): Wenn jemand eine nette Rede hält, sage ich: vielen Dank,
Wenn jemand etwas Gutes für mich macht sage ich: danke schön
Aber das ist eigentlich alles gleich

(3): Als Deutscher ist beides für mich gleich

So there isn’t a situation where one is more appropriate than the other, it’s a matter of taste. Just like English, people don’t say “thanks a lot” as much as “thanks” or “thank you” and “thank you” is more formal. I’d say “vielen Dank” is like “thanks a lot”, as someone else said:

Für mich ist vielen Dank noch höflicher als nur danke schön
Außerdem würde ich in einer offiziellen email nur vielen Dank und nicht danke schön" schreiben.

Dankeschön is less formal than vielen Dank and is widely used among friends and families in Germany.

It depends on social class of the person somehow. As I found out, educated people distinguish between them but normal people do not.

  • 1
    By normal you meant not educated? Or by saying educated you meant academic? Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 10:33
  • 1
    Absolutely agree that Dankeschön is less formal.
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 22:12

I would say vielen Dank can be both speaking (semi-formal) and writing, whereas Danke schön is used only in speaking and more casual way.

  • Hmm. I'm surprised that 'beautiful' doesn't appear to come into play in any way. Is it just not understood to exist in context?
    – Cyberchipz
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 12:33

Vielen Dank kann man bei fast jeder Gelegenheit sagen, gerade auch bei eher formellen Anlässen.

Danke schön ist weniger formell und bezieht sich eher nicht auf einen allgemeinen Dank, sondern wird persönlich ausgesprochen für etwas direkt Erlebtes.


Both are more formal than a simple Danke.

Danke schön

sounds almost old fashioned.

Vielen Dank

shows a little more thankfulness than Danke.


In addition to the other answers provided here, I’d like to point out the grammatical difference between the two. While both sentences are ellipses, two different parts of the sentence have been omitted:

In “Vielen Dank”, Dank is a noun, and the full sentence would thus require a subject and a predicate which have both been left out: “Ich habe (vielen) Dank.”

In “Danke schön”, danke is (or: used to be) a verb (usually first person singular; indicative mode), and the full sentence would read “Ich danke (schön).”

Since both shortened collocations have found their way into everyday language, they are not considered to be shortened versions of the long sentences any more. This can be seen for example in the contraction of danke and schön into the neuter noun Dankeschön.


No, there is no difference in usage.

Nein, es gibt keinen Unterschied in der Verwendung.


You got it all wrong. Vielen Dank means "Many Thanks". Danke schön Means "Thanks Nicely". Both are literal translations. I would say Danke schön is the more formal of the two, and Vielen dank is almost like saying "Thanks a Lot!"

  • 1
    I've never heard "Thanks nicely" before. Where did you get that from?
    – Baz
    Commented Nov 25, 2013 at 12:49
  • 2
    I believe user4799 is only intending to be helpful by pointing out that Vielen Dank "is" an adjective + noun while Danke schön "is" a verb + ~adverb ... hoping that this understanding answers the usage question. This is probably only marginally helpful, however.
    – Mark D
    Commented Nov 25, 2013 at 22:17
  • @Baz I'd say the more archaic "Thanks kindly" is a roughly equally literal translation and a more common expression in English, if not equivalent in frequency of use.
    – Darren
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 23:48
  • I'd probably upvote were it not for the "You got it all wrong" sentence -- which is not useful at all. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 19:50

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