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De means "of", and nada means "nothing", so why, when put together are they used in response to "Gracias"?

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Well, it's the same if I'd ask the reverse, why in English "you're welcome" is used as an answer to "thank you". I think this question might be improved so it's not so localized. –  JoulSauron Aug 7 '12 at 14:07
    
Re: "You're welcome": wiki.answers.com/Q/… –  Flimzy Aug 8 '12 at 2:22
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I have edited the question to be a little more directed. "De nada" does not mean "You're welcome" in the most literal sense ("estás bienvenido" does). I think the real question is, "Why do we respond to 'gracias' with 'de nada'?" If I have missed the point of your question, please feel free to revert my edit. –  Flimzy Aug 8 '12 at 2:24
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For what it's worth, the exact same form of words ("of nothing") is used in French (de rien) and Catalan (de res). –  Peter Taylor Aug 22 '12 at 20:18

5 Answers 5

up vote 23 down vote accepted

"De nada" means (literally) that there's nothing to be thankful about. "No hay nada que agradecer".

It's semantically similar to "not at all", but it can also be correctly translated to "You're welcome".

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Another common reply is "no hay de qué", which conveys the same meaning. –  Jubbat Aug 7 '12 at 23:37
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And "no hay de qué" can be shortened to "de qué" which, when it's a beginner doing the thanking, can lead to amusing exchanges like "Muchas gracias por la comida." "De qué." "De la comida. Me gustó. Muchas gracias." "De qué." "¡DE LA COMIDA!" "¡DE QUÉ!" –  Michael Wolf Aug 13 '12 at 15:05
    
I have never heard that "de qué" is used as an answer to "Gracias"... –  Alicia R. Mar 14 at 12:46

According to RAE "it's a polite answer to thanks being given to somebody", basically it's kind of equivalent to it was nothing/think nothing of it/no problem/don't mention it, in spanish you can also say no fue nada (and in that sense that sounds more "complete"), por nada, no hay problema, so basically de nada and the other variants are the current short way of saying no hay de que dar las gracias or no hay porque dar las gracias.

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American English is famous for responding to thanks with an acknowledgment that something indeed was done: "You're welcome" (yes, I did you a favor, and I accept your thanks). Virtually all other European language respond to thanks with a denial that anything significant was done: "de nada," "It was nothing," "de rien," "det var ingenting," etc. "You're welcome" is "heard" as an Americanism in British English. And even Americans seem to be moving increasingly to the denial model: "no problem," "no worries," etc.

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In Japanese you say "no (いいえ)" , like saying "don't mention it". –  Alfredo Osorio Aug 23 '13 at 15:47

In English we say:

No Problem

It was nothing

Don't mention it

Don't worry about it

All as very casual responses to "Thank you"

In Spanish I would use "de nada" in the same environment. With friends / family, etc..

If I were entering a classy restaurant and held the door for someone who responded with "muchos Gracias" then I would reply "es un placer" (it's a pleasure).

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It means "you have nothing to thank me for". It's meant in an endearing way..

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