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Guten abend!

While learning German I've heard several different forms of "thank you", notably "danke schön". German teachers have previously told me this means "thank you very much" or simply "thank you", and have instructed me to use it as I would use "danke". However, a literal translation of "schön" is "pretty", making "danke schön" "thank you dear" or "thank you pretty".

In English, this doesn't just express graditude but also affection, implying a certain level of informality or even intimacy. While this is nice if said innocently, it may come off the wrong way when said to a stranger or in a certain context (such as a man saying it to a woman). Does "danke schön" carry the same connotations?

Follow up: if not, what's the difference between "danke schön" and "vielen dank" (which, as I understand it, also means "thank you very much")?

Apologies for the silly question, I'm new to the German language and to Stack Exchange. Thanks in advance!

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  • This is not a silly question. Listen to youtube.com/watch?v=dov75vm0_KU and youtube.com/watch?v=svWf5dTyRdM.
    – Paul Frost
    Apr 30, 2022 at 23:06
  • @Paul Frost: Wayne Newton uses the Yiddish influenced pronunciation "shein", perhaps to fit with the rhyming scheme of the other lyrics.
    – RDBury
    May 1, 2022 at 5:02
  • @RDBury See en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danke_Schoen
    – Paul Frost
    May 1, 2022 at 10:26
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    You might also hear “schönen Dank” which is fairly close in semantics to “danke schön”, but more clearly expresses that the “schön” is a property of the thanks.
    – MvG
    May 2, 2022 at 17:51
  • @MvG I also find that "Danke schoen" sounds stilted, awkward and old-fashioned. "Schoenen Dank" sounds more "normal" to me. There might be regional differences to that impression, though. May 3, 2022 at 16:58

1 Answer 1

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Danke schön is a contraction of Ich danke Ihnen schön which, literally translated, means "I thank you nicely". So the schön does not refer to the addressee but to the quality of the thanks.

In everyday speech Danke schön is used as an embellishment to the simple Danke because the latter may come over as somewhat curt. It does imply a somewhat higher degree of gratitude, but not as high as Vielen Dank.

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    Understanding schön can be tricky for English speakers. Not only can it be used as both an adjective or an adverb, but it has diverse meanings not covered by a single English word. So "pretty", "nice", "good", and the corresponding adverbs, might all be used as translations. Then there's the fact that schon, which looks and sounds almost the same, means something completely different.
    – RDBury
    May 1, 2022 at 4:26
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    They can even be used together, i.e. "Vielen Dank, Dankeschön!" if you really want to express gratitude May 1, 2022 at 7:54
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    Oh, that's really interesting. Danke schön!!
    – Robbie
    May 1, 2022 at 14:09
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    Possibly related, in English "that's pretty good" or "pretty darn good" are also used as embellishments for "good". (With the first one in English weakening it (like "fairly good" or "somewhat good") unless tone of voice indicates otherwise. But "pretty darn good" is always more emphatic). I barely know a few pieces of phrasebook German, but this explanation of "Danke schön", and @RDBury's comment happening to put "pretty" and "good" together, pretty much made me think of cases where "pretty" is used as an embellishment in English. May 2, 2022 at 8:17
  • 3
    "Pretty please!" comes to mind. Of course, that carries a very different level of formality than "Danke schön!" May 2, 2022 at 11:07

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