Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard the expression “thanks but no thanks” in English?

Does this feel like a rather confusing to you because it’s like saying two different things?

This is one of those phrases that is all about sarcasm, but it can come across the wrong way if you aren’t careful.

Today we’re looking at this phrase, how it can be used, and if it’s the best to use in certain situations.

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Today we have a question about this expression!

Hi Lindsay,

I hope, you are doing well during COVID-19, the pandemics of loneliness. You are all doing incredible work, and I appreciate it so much. Today I want to ask you about an English expression that was used in an American movie I watched.

The expression is “ thanks but no thanks.” I don’t understand this, and I definitely don’t know how to use it. I could really use your thoughts on this particular expression, and I’m hoping you can help me to understand it.

Thanks for your help,

Yogesh Chavan

Looking At This Common Phrase

This is an expression that you may hear from time to time, and so you want to be sure that you understand it.

It’s really not a very nice expression in all actuality, for it tends to be rather negative.

It is generally said in a sarcastic way and it’s not intended to be genuine or kind.

It can be very rude or not come across well if you aren’t careful, and so you want to be sure of how you use it and who you use it with.

It’s almost like saying “I would never do that” or it’s even like saying “no way” in a rude way.

This is a phrase where you really want to be careful about the way in which you say it.

Intonation is everything here, for if you aren’t careful then this can really offend somebody.

Think about the way in which you are saying it, and who you are saying it to.

Context matters greatly for you never want to offend somebody, especially if you are just trying to be sarcastic or add some humor.

How Would You Use This?

Recognizing that this is a phrase that you want to be careful with, you need to know how to use it the right way.

So let’s look at some situations where you might hear it or use it, and then you can begin to get a feel for when it might work best.

Here’s an example of how you might hear it used.

A: “You want to study with me tomorrow for four hours?”

B: “Uhh, thanks but no thanks.”

Pay attention to intonation because here it gives off a rather negative feeling, even if it’s meant sarcastically.

You may mean it to say that the task itself doesn’t sound fun, but instead it could offend the person asking you to study.

You could also use it talking about something you don’t want to do, and that can actually work well in the right circumstance.

A: “Oh man, I should do my laundry. It’s like, thanks but no thanks.”

So this could be used in a humorous way, but it’s sarcastic so you want to be careful. In this example it works because it’s not being said to anyone, and so it can work quite well.

If you are saying it somebody though, you may come off the right way or even a bit spunky.

It’s as if you have a negative attitude about something, and so it can really be taken offensively if you’re not careful.

This might remind you of the expression “Sorry not sorry” as it’s quite similar in nature.

We touched on this way back a bit on an early episode AEE 148, but it’s been awhile.

What is sorry not sorry?

It’s expressing you know you did something wrong or something that someone else wouldn’t appreciate, but you’re not sorry.

You did it and you don’t feel any remorse, which is often not a good thing.

How someone may use this particular phrase: A: “There’s no way I’m helping you with that. Sorry, not sorry!”

A: “I broke up with him and he cried. Sorry, not sorry!”

These are kind of immature sounding, but they can be used in a humorous way if you approach it correctly.

Just be aware of how it can come across and be sure of who you are using it, and how you are using it in the given context.

Better Ways To Say This Sort of Thing

Sometimes you may want to express this sort of thing, and yet you don’t necessarily want to come off in an offensive or rude way.

There are some better more genuine ways to say this sort of thing, and they may be a better choice given your situation.

  • “Thanks, but I’m ok for now.” It’s straight to the point and isn’t rude, but it also dismisses the person or the thing they are saying. It’s a much more polite option to go for if you just aren’t sure.
  • “I’m really sorry about that!” It’s an apology and it works in certain situations. It’s direct and to the point, and so it works perfectly.

What to listen/look for in these situations or when these phrases are used.

  • A sarcastic tone of voice: When people are using sarcasm, you can tend to get a feel for that. You can sense that they don’t mean it in a serious way and so you can take it the right way.
  • A smirk: This helps to convey sarcasm in a great way, and it eases any uncertainty. It’s a great sign to look for and to use when you want to say something like this without being taken the wrong way.

The bottom line is that you want to be very careful when you use such phrases, and try to find a better option when possible.

You don’t want to offend, so be sure of who you are talking to and the situation you are in when you go for sarcasm.

These are not expressions that will help with connection, unless you are commiserating with someone about something.

So use them as such or go with a different option if there is any uncertainty whatsoever.


These are popular expressions, but they aren’t quite recommended in most situations.

They can be used to convey sarcasm, but be sure that you know that it will come across that way with the right person.

However, they are good to know and can help you when you think you’re in that right situation with the right person.

It can definitely be rude, so just be sure when you use it and then it might be okay.

When in doubt go for a nicer phrase and avoid hurt feelings—sometimes you have to be mindful with your word choice and this is an instance of that.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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