Why do Italians respond to 'grazie' with 'di niente'?

  • @I.M., mi sa che sono scomparsi i commenti che c'erano precedentemente qui...
    – DaG
    Nov 6 '15 at 10:40
  • @DaG The timeline tells that there was only one comment, and it didn't disappear - it was simply moved below to Gabriele's answer.
    – I.M.
    Nov 7 '15 at 10:10
  • Thanks, @I.M. I believed there were more comments here, among which the first one to mention Keine Ursache (before Gabriele's answer). I might mix it up with some other question.
    – DaG
    Nov 8 '15 at 8:22

Because it means

You have nothing to thank me about

which is somehow equivalent to the English expressions

Don't mention it
Not at all
No worries

and so on.

The idea is minimizing the importance of what the person is thanking you for, letting her understand it wasn't a hassle for you, therefore resulting in a polite expression.

Other alternative forms

Di nulla
Non c'è di che

the latter literally expressing the concept Non c'è di che ringraziarmi

Spanish and Portuguese, as well as French, do the same

De nada


De rien

As suggested by I.M. in the comments this is also true in German

Keine Ursache

and Swedish

ingen orsak

and Danish

ingen årsag

  • 1
    How about adding "You are welcome" to the proposed list of English expressions? Nov 11 '13 at 20:33
  • 3
    It's made on purpose, as it literally doesn't mean the same thing. All the expressions I listed have in common the negative form, explicitly used to minimize the act itself. Nov 11 '13 at 20:40
  • 3
    Besides "di nulla", also "non c'è di che", which should be the most clear of them all. Nov 11 '13 at 21:37
  • 1
    You dont say "Keine Ursache" in German. NO NO. - Nichts dafür - Gern geschehen - Bitte , etc..
    – user1904
    Nov 6 '15 at 8:26
  • 2
    @cristian "keine Ursache" is perfectly fine. Just because it's not used whereever you are doesn't mean it's wrong (I never knew "da nicht für", for example, before I talked to people from Westfalen).
    – YviDe
    Mar 29 '16 at 10:21

It's an equivalent of "Not at all" in British English and "No problem" in American English, used just as a polite but informal reply after someone has thanked you.

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