English

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


Español - ¿Por qué se dice "de nada" como respuesta a "Gracias"?

De significa "of" y nada significa "nothing". Entonces, ¿por qué se ponen juntas como respuesta a "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
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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
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    Peter Taylor is right: the real issue, and the interesting thing, is that we should use the preposition "de" instead of e.g., "por", and the reason is that Modern Spanish "de nada", like Catalan "de res" is a calque of the French expression "de rien". What it is equivalent to in OTHER languages, or what ELSE we Spaniards may say instead in the same context of use (e.g., "Ni lo menciones", "No me las des", "¡Por favor!") is perfectly irrelevant to the question. – Sibutlasi Mar 3 '15 at 13:06
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    @Sibutlasi You comment ought to be the right answer (at the least the one I would vote for) if you back it up. It is unfortunate that all the answers so far only explain how we interpret de nada nowadays, and not where it comes from. – Jacinto Nov 24 '15 at 10:31
up vote 50 down vote accepted

English

"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".


Español

"De nada" significa (literalmente) que no es necesario dar las gracias. "No hay nada que agradecer".

Es semánticamente similar a "not at all", pero es correcto traducirlo como "You're welcome".

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    Another common reply is "no hay de qué", which conveys the same meaning. – DPM 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
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    I have never heard that "de qué" is used as an answer to "Gracias"... – Alicia R. Mar 14 '14 at 12:46
  • @AliciaR. Me neither. Sounds to me like "Thanks for what?" – rpax Apr 12 '15 at 3:05
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    In Peru, we say. «De nada», «No hay por qué» or «No hay de qué», «No te preocupes» (don't worry), «Es un placer» (it's a pleasure to help), «Cuando quieras» (Anytime anywhere I can help you), «No hay problema» (There'sno problem) and finally «De qué» but this it's very confusing and informal for people who is learning Spanish. You have more options but "de nada" it's ok – Maximus Decimus Jun 16 '15 at 14:04

According to DLE in de nada 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 qué dar las gracias or no hay por qué dar las gracias.

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    What I don't understand is what the de is doing in de nada. Did people ever replied to muchas gracias with a full sentece that actually included de nada, so that the sentence could later be shortened to de nada? Otherwise, how did the de got there? – Jacinto Nov 24 '15 at 18:56

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).

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 Spanish, the term "de nada" means "[something] of little importance or value". The expression "cosa de nada" has been used for centuries:

—Bien puede vuestra merced, señor, concederle el don que pide, que no es cosa de nada: solo es matar a un gigantazo, y esta que lo pide es la alta princesa Micomicona, reina del gran reino Micomicón de Etiopia.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, "El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha", 1605 (España).

Searching in the CORDE you can find some matches of the expression used in contexts implying asking for a favour:

—Pues verá —dijo—, venía a ver si arreglábamos ahí un asuntillo, una cosa de nada.

José Manuel Caballero Bonald, "Dos días de setiembre", 1962 (España).

Or in contexts where the speaker means that something he/she has to do is in fact something very easy for him/her, so it has no value or importance:

—¡Cosa de nada! —como dijo Andrés respingando de gusto cuando las vio—. Descalzarme, remangar las perneras hasta los muslos y en un decir "Jesús", atracar un poco las vigas, halando del cabo del arpón; saltar encima de ellas, y con el palo que tengo escondido donde yo sé, bien cerca de aquí...

José María de Pereda, "Sotileza", 1885 - 1888 (España).

Funnily enough, I cannot find any text with this expression used as a return for "gracias", but it makes sense to think that the whole expression could be something like:

—¡Gracias!
—Ha sido una cosa de nada.

Due to "de nada" being the most important part of the whole expression, the one remarking that the thing done has no value, it is the part that remains nowadays.

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    Da gusto ofrecer recompensas y que contribuyas con tan buenas respuestas :_) – fedorqui Mar 18 '17 at 22:57

If we bring Portuguese into the mix it might shed some light into this whole question.

  • "Thank you!" = "Obrigado(a)!" > which literally means I am obliged or I now am obligated to repay your favor.

  • "You are welcome!" = "De nada" > I'm basically saying to that person who thanked me that it didn't cost me anything (effort or otherwise) so he/she doesn't owe me anything.

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

It means: I did not do anything (nothing) that should be thanked for. The person is showing him or her humble and down to earth.

protected by Flimzy Dec 21 '15 at 9:18

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